Israel’s military has hit a Hamas site in the Gaza Strip in its first air strike on the Palestinian territory since the summer’s war.
The military said the strike on what it called a “Hamas terror infrastructure site” in the southern Gaza Strip was in response to a rocket fired from Gaza into southern Israel yesterday. The rocket fire caused no injuries.
Palestinian residents reported hearing two explosions in the Khan Yunis region of Gaza, in an area that contains training sites for Palestinian militants. No injuries were immediately reported.
Israeli army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said Israel’s military “will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardise the well-being of the civilians of Israel. The Hamas terrorist organisation is responsible and accountable for today’s attack against Israel”.
The Gaza rocket attack and Israeli retaliation came days after a European Union court ordered Hamas removed from the EU terrorist list for procedural reasons, but said the bloc could maintain asset freezes against Hamas members for now.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was “a murderous terror organisation” and called for it to be immediately returned to the list.
Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, fought a 50-day war this summer, during which Hamas launched thousands of rockets and mortars towards Israel, which carried out an aerial campaign and a ground invasion.
The war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, according to Palestinian and United Nations officials. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
In the West Bank yesterday, fierce clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces at a military checkpoint and near the village of Turmus Aya, though no injuries were reported.
The village was the site of a Palestinian-Israeli scuffle earlier this month during which Palestinian cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ain collapsed. He later died on the way to hospital.
Palestinian and Israeli pathologists subsequently disagreed over the cause of his death. The Palestinian expert said it was a “blow”, while his Israeli counterpary said he died of a heart attack.
In other developments, the Israeli military began relaxing travel restrictions for Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Christmas, saying it granted 700 permits for Gazans to travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Israel said it was also allowing West Bank Christians to travel to Israel, permitting 500 of them to visit their families in the Gaza Strip, subject to security checks.
Israel restricts Palestinians in the two territories from entering the country without special permits, citing security concerns. Travel between the territories is also restricted but those bans are usually relaxed for Christians during the festive season.
The army also said it would also expand the working hours at military checkpoints to allow pilgrims from around the world faster access to the West Bank city of Bethlehem during Christmas.