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Israeli jets pound Gaza after rocket hits home

One Palestinian killed, eight injured in Israeli attacks, but Hamas says it's an attempt to undermine truce.

Israel says its fighter jets have struck 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and injuring eight others.

According to Gaza's Health Ministry, Naji Ahmad al-Zaneen, 25, was killed in the attack in northern Gaza early on Wednesday.

Among the wounded are six children who were on their way to school in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Palestinian sources said several rockets fired by Israeli warplanes targeted sites south of Gaza City, while another blast rocked the central region of the Gaza Strip. A powerful explosion also rocked Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Israeli army stated that it carried out air raids in response to a rocket that hit a home in Beersheba in southern Israel, causing damage but no injuries.

"At 4am [01:00 GMT] Israelis in the city of Beersheba were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel," the Israeli army said on Twitter.

"We will defend Israeli civilians," it added.

The Israeli army said Hamas, which governs the besieged enclave, bears "full responsibility" for the rocket fire but the Palestinian movement denied their role.

In a joint statement with allied armed groups, Hamas said it rejected "all irresponsible attempts" to undermine Egyptian efforts to broker a new long-term truce.

It was one of the first rockets fired in months from the Palestinian territory under Israel's devastating 11-year blockade and comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israel and Gaza.

Another rocket from Gaza reportedly fell into the sea near Tel Aviv. No injuries were reported.

'Heavy Blow'

The rocket was the first to hit an Israeli home since the devastating 2014 Israeli military assault on the besieged enclave.

It comes a day after Israel's defence minister said the time had come to deliver a "heavy blow" to Hamas after the Israeli army killed seven Palestinians on Friday, including two teenage boys, during demonstrations along Israel's separation fence.

It was unclear who fired the projectiles but the Israeli army says it holds Hamas accountable for what is happening in the territory under its control.

The rocket fire comes after months of demonstrations in Gaza by the Israeli separation fence.

The protesters are demanding to return to their homes in what is now Israel, under the UN Resolution 194, which stipulates their right of return.

At least 70 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, their families been expelled or forced to flee the violence during the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

They are also demanding an end to the crippling 11-year Israeli-Egyptian siege.

Since the Great March of Return demonstrations began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 205 Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave, including journalists and paramedics, and have injured more than 18,000.

According to Gaza's Health Ministry, 68 Palestinians have had their limbs amputated due to serious injuries.

In response to last week's demonstrations in which some Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers and burned tyres, Israel halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza's power plant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened "very painful blows," saying Israel was very close to waging a "different kind of activity".

"If it has any sense, Hamas will cease its fire and violent outbursts - now," he said.

Closing borders, cutting off fuel 

On Wednesday Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the closure of both of Israel's border crossings with Gaza - the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods and the Erez crossing for people.

The permitted fishing zone along the Gaza coast has also been reduced to three nautical miles from six, the defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.

Under the Oslo Accords, Israel is obligated to permit fishing for Gazans up to 20 nautical miles, but this has never been implemented; the widest range Israel has ever allowed is 12 nautical miles.

Lieberman said on Tuesday the protests could not be allowed to go on.

"We are not prepared to accept the level of violence we see week after week," Avigdor Lieberman told troops and commanders at an army base near southern Israel's border with Gaza.

He also suspended shipments of fuel that had been trucked daily into Gaza over the previous week under a deal brokered by the UN and backed by the United States, Israel and others.

It had seen thousands of litres brought into the fuel-starved Gaza strip.

The UN says Israeli blockade of the enclave has resulted in a "catastrophic" humanitarian situation.

Gaza's two million residents endure dire living conditions including a shortage of safe drinking water and regular power cuts, partly because of the lack of fuel for the strip's power station. Residents typically receive about four hours of electricity a day.


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