Abbas demands Israel halts Gaza ‘escalation’

Photo: Abbas demands Israel halts Gaza ‘escalation’
 / Arab-Israel Relations

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has demanded that Israel halt its "escalation" in Gaza, Agence France-Presse reported his spokesman as saying, as militants pounded the south with rockets and the army hit back with air strikes, Al Arabiya reported.

The Palestinian leader called on Israel to "put an end to its military escalation in the besieged Gaza Strip," Nabil Abu Rudeina said Thursday.

Meanwhile, a military spokeswoman on Thursday told AFP that militants had fired five rockets but only one struck Israeli territory, causing no harm or damage.

Earlier, an AFP photographer on the Israeli side of the Gaza border said all was quiet at daybreak.

The spokeswoman said the total number of rockets which had struck southern Israel since the escalation began on Wednesday was "over 60," with five of them hitting populated areas.

Overnight, Israeli warplanes carried out raids on 29 targets in Gaza, hitting bases used by militants from Gaza's ruling Hamas movement and from Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Quds Brigade, which has so far claimed all of the rocket fire.

The strikes, which began at around 2030 GMT Wednesday, prompted a sharp rebuke from Abbas who demanded Israel "put an end to its military escalation in the besieged Gaza Strip," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said Thursday.

By Wednesday evening, Islamic Jihad claimed it had fired at least 90 rockets at Israel in response to an air strike on Tuesday that killed three of its militants in southern Gaza, which took place after they had fired a mortar at Israeli troops in the area.

The rocket salvos, which sent tens of thousands of Israelis running for shelter, marked the biggest wave of attacks since a major eight-day November 2012 confrontation between Israel and Hamas.

There have been no reports of casualties on either side.

Despite the escalation, schools were operating as normal on Thursday, the military said.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned a series of rocket attacks against Israel that originated in Gaza and provoked swift Israeli retaliation.

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