oPt + 1 more

oPt: Hamas fires heavier rockets at Israel

(Adds EU statement, mayor quote)

By Abed Shana

GAZA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Hamas Islamists fired their longest-range rockets at a southern Israeli city on Friday after an Israeli air force attack on their Gaza stronghold, in the 11th day of skirmishes threatening a five-month-old truce.

A statement from the armed wing of the Islamist group said Hamas fired five 1960s-era, Soviet-made Grad rockets at an Israeli town, the longest range weapon they have claimed to shoot at the Jewish state.

Israeli rescue services said five rockets struck the southern coastal city of Ashkelon but caused no casualties. The Grad has a maximum range of 25 km (15 miles).

Palestinian medical workers said two Hamas fighters were wounded in a morning strike by the Israeli air force, which an Israeli military spokesman said was ordered in response to a Hamas rocket attack.

Hamas said it fired 8 shorter-range Kassam rockets in response, aimed at the city of Sderot.

Two hit the town causing damage to buildings, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. One Israeli was treated for shrapnel wounds, and a number of people were treated for shock.

"Fortunately there were no casualties but there was a lot of damage," said Micha Ben Alain, whose kibbutz near Sderot was hit. "Windows were smashed and doors were torn apart."

"The defence minister must give the army an immediate order to halt the shootings," said Sderot's mayor David Buskila.

Israel has closed border crossings with Gaza, halting food and fuel supplies to the blockaded enclave, between Israel and Egypt on the Mediterranean coast. Hamas Islamists who control the territory do not recognise Israel's right to exist.

A senior Israel defence official on Friday said that "due to the continued rocket fire the crossings are shut today ... there is no intent to open them today".

United Nations aid agencies supplying Gaza said they were out of food to distribute to 750,000 Palestinians.

"People are going to start getting hungry," said U.N. spokesman Christopher Gunness.


The EU urged Israel to let food, medicine and fuel through to the Palestinians, and urged restraint by both sides.

"I am profoundly concerned about the consequences for the Gazan population of the complete closure of all Gaza crossings for deliveries of fuel and basic humanitarian assistance," said External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"I call on Israel to re-open the crossings" in keeping with international law which requires access to essential services such as electricity and clean water for civilians, she said.

The clashes began on Nov. 4. when Israeli forces killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid to destroy a secret infiltration tunnel and a strike at militants who had fired mortars.

Israeli troops killed four gunmen in a raid on Wednesday, and Hamas responded with more rocket and mortar attacks.

Short of fuel, Palestinian officials have shut down Gaza's sole power plant, causing partial blackouts. EU-funded fuel generates a third of Gaza's power needs. The rest comes from Israel, which was continuing to supply, and Egypt.

On Friday, some Gaza bakeries posted notices limiting the purchase of bread, although no major shortages were reported.

Hamas Islamists are in conflict with the Palestinian mainstream led by President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction. Fatah holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and is negotiating with Israel on the terms of a comprehensive peace treaty.

The rift between them widened last year as Hamas seized control of Gaza. Egyptian-brokered talks aimed at establishing unity faltered in Cairo earlier this month.

(Additional reporting by Mark John in Brussels; Editing by Matthew Jones) (Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Giles Elgood)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet