Rare rocket strike near Tel Aviv wounds Israelis, Netanyahu to return


TEL AVIV: A rocket from Gaza hit a house in a rare strike north of Tel Aviv on Monday, wounding seven Israelis and leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a Washington trip while vowing a forceful response.

The rocket from the Palestinian enclave and expected Israeli response comes at a highly sensitive time just ahead of Israel’s April 9 elections.

Israel’s army said the rocket was fired by Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, from the Rafah area in the south of the enclave.

It announced it was sending two additional brigades to reinforce the Gaza area and said it was carrying out a limited call up of reservists.

Netanyahu, currently in Washington, said he would return home after meeting US President Donald Trump later Monday, cancelling an address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference on Tuesday.

Israel also closed its people and goods crossings with the blockaded Gaza Strip and reduced the zone in the Mediterranean it allows for Palestinian fishermen off the enclave, a statement said.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, around 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Tel Aviv, police said.

The rocket would have had to travel some 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Rafah to hit the house in the community of Mishmeret.

Rocket fire from Gaza at that distance is rare.

The hospital treating the wounded said seven Israelis were injured lightly by burns and shrapnel, including three children.

One of the wounded was a six-month-old child and six of them were members of the same family.

The house was destroyed in the wake of the rocket and subsequent fire, with burnt wood, a children’s toy and other debris piled at the site.