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Beersheva hit by missiles from Gaza

A Grad missile landed in the Beersheva region yesterday, for the first time since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, as hostilities between Hamas and Israel intensified.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group denied responsibility for the missile, which landed in an open area 25 miles from the Gaza border, blaming a radical Salafist group in the Gaza Strip instead.

Following the missile attack, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched a series of air strikes on Gaza. The five-story Said al-Mishal Cultural Centre, in northern Gaza, which served as a headquarters for Hamas’s internal security service, was destroyed in the attacks.The IDF said that “some of the members of the internal security unit are also operatives of Hamas’s military wing”. The IDF issued a preliminary warning in order to avoid a large number of civilian casualties. Eighteen Palestinians were reportedly wounded in the Israeli strike.

Missiles were fired from Gaza toward communities in the south of Israel after the Israeli air strikes.

Tal Lev Ram wrote in Maariv that “if not for the first fire at Beer Sheva since Operation Protective Edge, the IDF would have tried to tone down its military responses yesterday in the course of the day – with the hope that Hamas would behave the same way – so as to bring about an end to the current round of warfare”.

The US State Department’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Heather Nauert, said yesterday: “We condemn the launching of missile attacks into Israel and call for an end to the destructive violence. We fully support Israel’s right to defend itself and to take actions to prevent provocations of that nature.”

UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said on Twitter he was: “Concerned by deteriorating situation in Gaza/Israel and civilian casualties, inc. reports of death of pregnant woman and 1yr old child in Gaza. Hamas must end attacks against Israel. Support UN/Egypt efforts to restore calm and agree ceasefire. Escalation is in no-one’s interest.”

France’s Foreign Ministry said it “condemns the firing of rockets towards Israel and wishes that restraint prevails and the cease-fire be respected by all the parties in order to avoid new civilian casualties”. The ministry added that violence escalation mirrored the urgent need to reach a political solution to end the conflict mainly by addressing the humanitarian crisis affecting the Palestinian population via blockade removal and respecting Israel’s security, as well as the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.