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Last updated: November 16, 2012 7:03 pm
Gaza-based militants fired a missile at Jerusalem on Friday, widening the zone of Israel’s conflict with Hamas and potentially escalating the cycle of violence.
It was the first time ever that rocket fire from Gaza has reached the vicinity of Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city and government seat. The attack caused no injuries and no damage, but was a clear warning that Hamas and other groups still have the ability to strike deep inside Israeli territory despite three days of heavy bombardment.
Air raid sirens sounded out shortly before 5pm, causing alarm and confusion among Jerusalem residents. A police spokesman said the rocket fell short of its target, landing just south of the city close to an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. The Hamas military wing claimed responsibility for the rocket.
Israeli leaders have said their bombardment of Gaza this week is designed to deter Hamas.
Israeli warplanes pounded targets inside Gaza for a third day. The military said it had bombed at least 600 sites inside the strip since the first strike on Wednesday, which killed the leader of the Hamas military wing.
Suggesting it was preparing for a protracted conflict, the Israeli army also announced that it was calling up 16,000 reserve soldiers to bolsters its ranks. Israeli TV reported the government was considering increasing the number of reservists to 75,000.
The latest Israeli offensive has claimed the lives of at least 23 Palestinians in Gaza, including eight children, while three Israeli civilians have been killed by rocket fire. The Israeli military said militant groups have launched at least 700 rockets and missiles at Israel in the past three days.
The city of Tel Aviv also came under fire on Friday, with Hamas claiming responsibility for launching two Fajr-5 missiles at Israel’s commercial capital. Neither rocket caused injuries, with at least one landing in the sea.
The authorities ordered the opening of all underground bunkers across the city.
The first Tel Aviv rocket was fired just hours after Hisham Qandil, Egypt’s prime minister, visited the Gaza Strip to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. His arrival had prompted an Israeli offer of a temporary lull in attacks, but the firing continued on both sides even as the Egyptian premier toured the Palestinian enclave.
Thousands of people gathered across Egypt to protest the Israeli attacks, while Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan spoke by telephone with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ahead of a long-scheduled meeting between the two leaders in Cairo on Saturday.
“I’m warning the aggressors against Gaza – they can’t have any power over the strip,” Mr Morsi said in a statement after Friday prayers. “Cairo won’t leave Gaza alone, and I’m speaking on behalf of all Egyptian people that Egypt now is different than before.”
Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing to receive at least one injured Palestinian. There was no word on whether a plan recently initiated by Cairo to destroy hundreds of illegal tunnels, used to smuggle contraband and supplies between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, had been suspended.
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