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Middle east

Israel's 'Iron Dome' intercepts Hamas rocket over Tel Aviv

©

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-17

Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ defence system intercepted a rocket over Tel Aviv on Saturday, hours after intensifying air strikes on strategic targets, including Hamas headquarters.

Latest developments:

  • Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi said there were indications a truce could "soon" be reached.
  • France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah on Sunday.
  • Israel’s “Iron Dome” intercepted a Fajr 5 rocket over Tel Aviv on Saturday afternoon, with no casualties reported. A second rocket hit uninhabited land outside of the city.
  • Hamas' headquarters were hit by four air strikes, the group reported.
  • At least 44 Palestinians—including 13 civilians—and three Israelis have so far been killed since the fighting erupted last week. 
  • Iran has denied supplying long-range missiles to Hamas.
     

Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with more than 180 airstrikes early Saturday, the military said, widening a blistering assault on militant operations to include the prime minister’s headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels.

The new attacks followed an unprecedented rocket strike from Gaza aimed at the contested holy city of Jerusalem that raised the stakes in Israel’s violent confrontation with Palestinian militants.
 
On Saturday, Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile battery system intercepted a rocket over Tel Aviv, with no casualties reported.
 
Israeli aircraft also kept pounding their original targets, the militants’ weapons storage facilities and underground rocket launching sites. The Israeli military called up 75,000 reservists and amassed troops, tanks and armored vehicles along the border with Hamas-ruled Gaza, signaling a ground invasion could be imminent.

Undaunted by the heavy damage the Israeli attacks have inflicted, militants have unleashed some 500 rockets against the Jewish state, including new, longer-range weapons turned for the first time this week against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel's second most populous city.
 
In all, 44 Palestinians, including 13 civilians, and three Israeli civilians have been killed since Wednesday.
 
Targeting Hamas’ ‘symbols of power’
 
Israel had been slowly expanding its operation beyond military targets but before dawn on Saturday it ramped that up dramatically, hitting Hamas' symbols of power.
 
A three-story apartment building belonging to a Hamas military commander was hit, and ambulances ferried out more than 30 inhabitants wounded by the powerful explosion.
 
The Interior Ministry said a government compound was hit while devout Muslims streamed to the area for early morning prayers, although it did not report any casualties from that attack. Also hit was a cabinet building where the Hamas prime minister has his offices. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was not inside.
 
The Hamas government said its cabinet headquarters was targeted with four strikes, and witnesses reported extensive damage to the building.
 
On Saturday Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesslem visited the Gaza Strip and denounced the Israeli attacks as unacceptable and against international law.

“Israel should understand that many things have changed and that lots of water has run in the Arab river,” Abdesslem said as he surveyed Prime Minister Haniyeh's office, reduced to rubble.

“(Israel) should realise it no longer has a free hand. It does not have total immunity and is not above international law,” he added. “What Israel is doing is not legitimate and is not acceptable at all.”

Iran has also been drawn into the conflict, after Hamas said it had fired Iranian long-range Fajr-5 rockets. Iran’s Foreign Minister Allaeddine Boroujerdi on Saturday denied having supplied the rockets to the Palestinian militants.

Signs of a truce

As the violence has escalated so too have international efforts to stem it. In Cairo, Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi said his government was in contact with Israelis and Palestinians and there were indications they could "soon" reach a truce.

Arab ministers at an Arab League meeting in the Egytpian capital threw their support behind Morsi's efforts to achieve a ceasefire, and announced that a delegation of League ministers will visit Gaza in the next one or two days.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will also travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Sunday.

The United States meanwhile has also been monitoring the situation, with US President Barack Obama having spoken separately with Israeli and Egyptian leaders since the conflict flared.

Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to discuss how the two countries could help bring an end to escalating violence between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, a White House official said on Saturday.

In a speech at Cairo University the same day, Erdogan was reported saying that Israel would be held to account for the civilian deaths caused by the air strikes on Gaza. "Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2012-11-17

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