Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday in response to a series of rocket launches out of the Hamas-ruled territory. It was the third consecutive night of fighting between the enemies.

Tensions have been heightened following last week’s escape from an Israeli prison by six Palestinian inmates, as well as struggling efforts by Egypt to broker a long-term cease-fire in the wake of an 11-day war last May.

The Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches late Sunday and early Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses.

In response, it said it attacked a number of Hamas targets. There were no reports of casualties on either side.

Over the weekend, Israel caught four of the six Palestinian inmates, who tunnelled out of a maximum-security prison on September 6. Its search for the last two prisoners is continuing.

Meanwhile, Egyptian-mediated efforts to deliver a long-term truce have struggled with the sides unable to agree on a system to renew Qatari payments to needy Gaza families. Israel has demanded guarantees that Hamas does not divert the money for military use.

Gaza is an impoverished territory whose population is overwhelmingly comprised of families who fled or were forced from properties in what is now Israel during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Hamas is pushing for Israel to end a crippling blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy, while Israel is demanding that Hamas free two captive Israeli civilians and return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the forces of the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority in 2007, a year after the militant group won Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous smaller rounds of fighting.

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