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Afp

Rocket hits house north of Tel Aviv, Israelis wounded: police

By AFP
media Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed by many analysts to want to avoid another war in the Gaza Strip with unpredictable results ahead of the elections POOL/AFP/File

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire on Monday, wounding five Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel's army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently in Washington, where he is due to meet US President Donald Trump later Monday, and there was no word on whether he would shorten his trip.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

It would be sure to draw an Israeli response and comes after mounting tensions in recent weeks.

Netanyahu is believed by many analysts to want to avoid another war in the Gaza Strip -- the fourth since 2008 -- with unpredictable results ahead of the elections.

But he faces a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance led by former military chief Benny Gantz and he will come under heavy political pressure to react firmly.

- One-year anniversary -

Monday's incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Tel Aviv -- also rare -- on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire towards Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel's military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army's preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.

The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.

Monday's rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.

 
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