Fuse lit in Middle East: Escalation of tensions in Gaza, clashes intensify between Syria and Turkey

Israeli warplanes responded immediately, striking a number of rocket-launching squads as they fired toward Israel, according to the military, and hitting several facilities belonging to Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, which the military said were being used to store weapons. Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza, said that five Palestinians were injured in Monday’s strikes, one of them seriously. The latest flare-up began with the missile strike on Sunday against two men who Israel said were members of jihadist groups involved in terrorist activity against Israel. Some Palestinian news outlets identified the two men as members of radical Salafist groups. Gaza medical officials said that the two, who were struck while riding on a motorcycle, were critically wounded, and that at least eight passers-by were also injured. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said that up to 30 mortar shells had fallen inside Israel on Monday morning, and the military said that a number of rockets also struck Israeli territory near the Gaza border. The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group, claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar fire, saying that they were aiming at Israeli military bases near the border.

A spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, known only by his nom de guerre, Abu Obeida, said that Monday’s attacks were meant as “a message” that “the Palestinian resistance will not allow unilateral aggression” from Israel. He warned of “stronger, expanded responses” if the Israeli raids continued. Most of the rockets and mortars fell in uninhabited areas in Israel, but the military said that some buildings were damaged. Several goats were killed in a petting zoo in an Israeli communal farm near the border, according to the news Web site Ynet. Israelis were marking the last day of the Sukkot holiday on Monday, and schools and offices were closed. Israelis near the Gaza border were advised to remain close to bomb shelters and protected areas. The Education Ministry in Gaza said that four schools in southeast Gaza were evacuated because of Israeli shelling in the area. Hamas has largely adhered to an informal, if fragile, cease-fire with Israel and has acted in the past to rein in smaller groups, but this was the second time in less than four months that Hamas joined in firing rockets at Israel.
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