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Israel strikes central Gaza six times, cancels easing of blockade Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel strikes central Gaza six times, cancels easing of blockade

Israel has warned of a "harsh military response" to attacks from the Strip [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2020

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Israeli helicopters battered the central Gaza strip early Sunday morning, after cancelling plans to ease its blockade of the strip, as tension continue to flare.
Israeli military helicopters on Saturday night shelled an alleged military post used by Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the group who control the Gaza strip, a total of six times, according to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site.

The air raid, which targeted a central region of the densely populated coastal enclave, set the post ablaze but resulted in no casualties. 

"Fighter planes and helicopters have targeted positions of the terrorist organisation Hamas in central Gaza strip," the Israeli military said in statement, AFP report. 

Earlier, military sources reported that two rockets had been fired into the Gaza envelope, the area of Israel which surrounds the strip.

No group claimed responsibility for the strike. In response, Israel cancelled its easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

"The extension of the fishing zone, the restoration of 500 commercial permits and the delivery of cement have been cancelled," because of the rocket fire, COGAT, the Israel defence ministry unit that oversees civilian activities in the Palestinian territories, said in a statement.

Exchanges between the two sides have escalated since last month after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, angrily rejected by the Palestinians as a capitulation to Israeli demands.

Trump's so-called 'Deal of the Century' offers Palestinians limited sovereignty over disparate blotches of territory and a capital on the outer edges of Jerusalem, while granting Israel the go-ahead to annex large parts of the West Bank.

Hamas and Israel have fought no less than three wars in the past twelve years, but the Islamist group had, until recently, shaped an informal truce with Israel, under which the Jewish state eased its crippling blockade of strip.

While Israel justifies the blockade as driven by the need to contain Hamas, critics see it as a collective punishment meted out on two million people.

Palestinians in Gaza have launched rockets, mortar shells and incendiary balloons at southern Israel on a near-daily basis since Trump's plan was unveiled. 

Earlier this week, Israeli security officials warned of a "harsh military response" if attacks from the Gaza Strip continued.

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We won't accept any aggression from Gaza. Just a few weeks ago, we took out the top commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and I suggest that Islamic Jihad and Hamas refresh their memories."

Agencies contributed to this report.

Read more: Israeli warplanes pummel Gaza as Netanyahu asserts readiness for 'devastating action'

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