Israel launches ‘dozens’ of Gaza strikes, draws Turkish ire

by Stephen Weizman Israel said Monday it staged dozens of strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire from the strip, causing limited casualties but sparking a war of words with Turkey.

“We conducted strikes against several dozen targets in the Gaza Strip” on Sunday, an army spokeswoman told AFP.

Palestinian medical officials said four people were wounded by Israeli aircraft and tank fire after a rocket fired from Gaza hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot, without causing any casualties.

Security sources in the coastal strip said several targets in northern Gaza were hit by Israeli fire, and that a reservoir in the town of Beit Hanun was destroyed.

Bases of Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, as well as of two smaller militant groups were hit, the sources said.

Turkey, whose parliament on Friday night ratified normalisation of ties with Israel after a six-year rift, slammed the Israeli strikes.

“We strongly condemn these disproportionate attacks,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

“These attacks, which caused injury to innocent Palestinian civilians, are unacceptable whatever prompted them.”

Turkey’s ruling Islamic-rooted AKP party has friendly ties with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause.

“The normalisation of our country’s relations with Israel does not mean we will stay silent in the face of such attacks against the Palestinian people,” the Turkish statement added.

Israel was quick to respond in kind.

“The normalisation of our relations with Turkey does not mean that we will remain silent in the face of its baseless condemnations,” said its foreign ministry.

“Israel will continue to defend its civilians from all rocket fire on our territory, in accordance with international law and our conscience.

“Turkey should think twice before criticising the military actions of others,” the Israeli statement added, without elaborating.

– ‘Aggression will not succeed’ -Turkish troops last month staged a failed coup attempt against Erdogan.

It was followed by a massive government crackdown on alleged coup sympathisers which has drawn EU criticism that it may violate human rights.

There was no immediate Palestinian claim of responsibility for Sunday’s attack on Sderot.

A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Israel “carries responsibility for the escalation in the Gaza Strip and this new aggression will not succeed” in weakening the movement.

Since January, 14 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israeli territory, the military said.

On July 2, Israeli air raids hit four sites in Gaza after a rocket struck a building in Sderot. There were no casualties in either attack.

Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008, including the most recent conflict in the summer of 2014 that killed 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.

Turkey and Israel were formerly close regional allies, but fell out in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists in a raid on a flotilla seeking to run the blockade.

A 10th died after years in a coma.

Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended all defence ties in 2011.

The following year, Erdogan — then prime minister — denounced Israel as a “terrorist state”, accusing it of “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza.

In June 2016 the two countries reached agreement on restoring ties and Israel’s security cabinet approved the deal.

The Turkish parliament formally ratified it late on Friday, after a delay caused by the attempted coup.


© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse


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