Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Militants fire rockets at Israel

Traffic is at a standstill near a section of Israel's separation barrier near a crossing checkpoint (AP)

Gaza militants have fired two rockets at southern Israel on the second day of US president Barack Obama's visit to the region, police say.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says one rocket exploded in the courtyard of a house in the border town of Sderot, causing damage but no injuries. The other landed in an open field.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Mr Obama visited Sderot, which is frequently targeted by rocket attacks from the nearby Gaza Strip. The territory is ruled by the militant Palestinian Hamas group.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for today's attack, which came as Mr Obama was in Jerusalem. He is to visit the West Bank city of Ramallah later in the day.

The rocket attacks underscored Mr Obama's message of the importance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. After a visit to Israel's national museum - where he was inspecting the Dead Sea Scrolls, which highlight the Jewish people's ancient connection to the land that is now Israel - Mr Obama will head to the West Bank to tell the Palestinians that the creation of a Palestinian state remains a priority.

He is not bringing a new plan to relaunch peace talks, but in meetings with the Palestinians and a speech to Israeli students later in the day, he will appeal to both sides to halt unilateral actions that make negotiations more difficult.

Those troublesome actions include continued construction of Jewish housing settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and repeated Palestinian efforts to achieve recognition at the United Nations in the absence of a peace agreement.

Mr Obama has reaffirmed the US commitment to Israel's security and noted there had been no new fatal attacks on Israelis from the West Bank, which is controlled by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

That calm has not extended to Gaza, which is run by the militant Islamic Hamas movement. As Mr Obama began his programme today, Israeli police said militants in Gaza had fired two rockets at the southern town of Sderot.

Sirens wailed in Sderot shortly after the rocket attack, forcing residents on their way to work or school to run to bomb shelters.

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