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Islamic Jihad says it ends Gaza rocket fire at Israel after two-day flare-up

By AFP - Feb 24,2020 - Last updated at Feb 24,2020

A photo taken on Monday shows an explosion following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Gaza group Islamic Jihad announced the end of its "military response" against Israel on Monday after a two-day exchange of fire just a week before Israel's March 2 election.

There was no immediate confirmation of a ceasefire from Israel, and AFP correspondents in the Palestinian enclave said Israeli airstrikes were ongoing early Monday evening.

Islamic Jihad, allied to Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, had fired some 60 rockets towards Israel since the killing of one of its fighters Sunday morning, according to the United Nations.

Israel’s army said many were intercepted by the country’s air defence systems and there were no immediate reports of casualties, though one projectile hit an empty playground.

Israeli fighter jets and helicopters responded with strikes on Islamic Jihad bases across the strip, as well as near the capital of neighbouring Syria.

Monday evening, Islamic Jihad announced that it had “ended its military response to the two assassination crimes in Khan Younis and Damascus”.

It was referring to Israel’s killing of a fighters at the border fence in Gaza on Sunday morning and air strikes near the Syrian capital that killed six people, including two from the group.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is battling for reelection in the shadow of an impending corruption trial, had earlier threatened an “extensive campaign” to end the rocket fire.

“Hamas and Islamic Jihad need to understand — this cannot continue,” he said.

Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum responded: “The enemy’s threats to expand its aggression, if carried out, will face a resistance never seen before and it should bear the costs and results.”

Over the past year Hamas and Israel have reached a series of agreements that have seen Israel slightly ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for relative calm.

Islamic Jihad has not accepted the deals, and Israeli officials warn the group could be seeking to provoke a fresh conflict.

United Nations Envoy Nickolay Mladenov called for calm, warning the escalation “risks dragging Gaza into another round of hostilities with no end in sight”.

“The indiscriminate launching of rockets against civilian population centres violates international law and must end,” he told the UN Security Council.

The flare-up began on Sunday morning when an Islamic Jihad figthers was killed along the Gaza-Israel border. Islamic Jihad subsequently launched more than 20 rockets and mortars throughout the day.

Israel struck back against targets in both Gaza and Syria.

Airstrikes near the Syrian capital Damascus killed two Islamic Jihad fighters and four other Iran-backed fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

The fighters responded with rocket fire from Gaza, forcing the closure of schools and roads in southern Israel on Monday while a number of universities postponed exams.


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Thursday 26 March 2020


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