Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 August 2015

Hamas fires rocket at Jerusalem

Published 16/11/2012 | 02:02

The car in which Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, was killed in Gaza City (AP)
The car in which Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, was killed in Gaza City (AP)
Ultra Orthodox Jewish men gather around the body of Mirah Sharf who was killed in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi (AP)
Relatives and friends carry the body of Palestinian child Faris Basyoni during his funeral in Gaza. Relatives say he was killed after an Israeli airstrike hit his family house. (AP)
Palestinian mourners in Gaza carry the body of Hamas' top military commander Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli strike (AP)
People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian security forces wheel into a hospital the body of Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
People gather around a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media at Hakirya a military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Israel's prime minister says the military is prepared to broaden its operation against Hamas targets in Gaza. Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel cannot tolerate continued rocket attacks against its citizens. In his first comments since Israel killed the commander of the Hamas military wing, Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel is "prepared to expand the operation". (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Image from aerial footage made available by the Israeli Defense Force Wednesday Nov. 14, 2012 shows the car of Hamas military chief, Ahmad Jabari, circled, moments before an airstrike hit. Israel killed the commander of the Hamas military wing in one of some 20 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Wednesday, the heaviest barrage on the Palestinian territory in four years in retaliation for renewed rocket fire on southern Israel. (AP Photo/ IDF video via APTV)
ISRAEL OUT - An Israeli man stands next to a car damaged by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva. Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Ilan Assayag)
People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli woman sits inside a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli woman and children sit inside a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli woman and children sit inside a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli stand outside a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT )An Israeli man and child wait for a bus to leave town on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT ) People wait for a bus to leave town on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli children sit in a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israelis watch Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on TV in a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT )An Israeli man and child wait for a bus to leave town on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli children play games at a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli children sit in a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israelis watch TV in a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli children sit in a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
NETIVOT, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 14: (ISRAEL OUT) Israelis watch TV in a bomb shelter on November 14, 2012 in Netivot, Israel. Israel Defense Forces launched aerial attacks on targets in Gaza that killed the top military commander of Hamas, (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Palestinian militants have fired a rocket aimed at Jerusalem, setting off air raid sirens throughout the city and opening a new front in three days of fierce fighting between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli campaign has been limited to airstrikes so far. But military officials say they are considering expanding it to a ground campaign. Lt Col Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman, said the military had called 16,000 reservists to duty as it geared up for a possible ground offensive. She said the army had authority to draft an additional 14,000 soldiers. She would not say where the troops were deployed.

As air-raid sirens went off in Jerusalem, witnesses said they saw a stream of smoke in Mevasseret Zion, a Jerusalem suburb. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the rocket landed in an open area near Gush Ezion, a collection of Jewish settlements in the West Bank southeast of the city.

An attack on Israel's self-declared capital marks a major escalation by Gaza militants, both for its symbolism and its distance from the Palestinian territory. Located roughly 75 kilometres (50 miles) away from the Gaza border, Jerusalem had been thought to be beyond the range of Gaza rocket squads.

Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas militant wing, said the group had fired a long-range rocket at Jerusalem. "We are sending a short and simple message: There is no security for any Zionist on any single inch of Palestine and we plan more surprises," he said. Hamas officials said the rocket was a homemade "M-75" rocket, a weapon that has never been fired before.

It also marks a bit of a gamble for the militants. Gush Ezion is close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and just a few kilometres from the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, one of Islam's holiest sites. Jews call the compound the Temple Mount because of the biblical Jewish temples that once stood there.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in Jerusalem and nearby areas of the West Bank. Militants have already fired rockets into the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv, another unprecedented achievement, yesterday. The rocket attacks have not hurt anyone in the bustling metropolis, but have caused panic and jitters.

Just a few years ago, Palestinian rockets were limited to crude, homemade devices manufactured in Gaza. But in recent years, Hamas and other armed groups have smuggled in sophisticated, longer-range rockets from Iran and Libya, which has been flush with weapons since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted last year.

The strike occurred on the third day of an Israeli offensive in Gaza meant to halt rocket fire from the crowded seaside strip. Israel began the offensive on Wednesday by assassinating Hamas' military chief and striking dozens of rocket launchers. But militants have continued to rain rockets across Israel. The militants received a boost of solidarity today with a visit by Egypt's prime minister, Hesham Kandil, who called on Israel to end its operation.

In all, 23 Palestinians have been killed, including 11 civilians, according to Gaza health officials, and 250 people wounded. Three Israelis were killed when a rocket hit an apartment building in southern Israel.

www.idf.il/english/ (Israel Defence Forces)

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