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Israel launches Gaza airstrikes in response to Hamas rockets

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Damage: Palestinians observe the site of the Israeli strikes. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

Damage: Palestinians observe the site of the Israeli strikes. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Damage: Palestinians observe the site of the Israeli strikes. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

The Israeli military has said it launched "wide-scale" airstrikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip shortly after Palestinian militants fired three rockets into Israel, two of which were intercepted.

There were no reports of casualties or major damage from the exchange of fire overnight, which came amid heightened tensions after President Donald Trump released his Middle East plan, a US initiative aimed at ending the conflict, which heavily favours Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians.

The Israeli military said Palestinian militants launched "explosive balloons" towards Israel and a sniper had shot an observational antenna. It said it struck Hamas targets in response, including "underground infrastructure used to manufacture weapons".

Later yesterday, the military said Gaza militants fired three mortar rounds, and an Israeli tank responded by firing on a Hamas military post. There were no reports of casualties

Gaza has been relatively calm in recent months as Egyptian and UN mediators have worked to shore up an informal truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the coastal territory.

Hamas has curbed rocket fire and rolled back weekly protests along the frontier that had often turned violent.

In return, Israel has eased the blockade it imposed on Gaza after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have rejected the Trump plan, which would allow Israel to annex all of its Jewish settlements, along with the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians were offered limited self-rule in Gaza, parts of the West Bank and some sparsely populated areas of Israel in return for meeting a long list of conditions. Hamas has vowed that "all options are open" in responding to the proposal, but is not believed to be seeking war with Israel.

Palestinians have held small, scattered protests in recent days condemning the Trump initiative amid concerns that larger protests might erupt at a holy site in Jerusalem that is sacred to Muslims and Jews.

Irish Independent