Israel shuts Gaza fishing zone after overnight fighting

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel closed the Gaza Strip’s offshore fishing zone yesterday following a night of cross-border fighting with Palestinian militants, the most intense escalation of hostilities in recent months.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two rockets into southern Israel after Israeli airstrikes targetted sites belonging to the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.

The military said the Iron Dome aerial defence system intercepted the two rockets that militants in Gaza launched at southern Israel. But police said rocket fallout caused damage to a house in the town of Sderot, and paramedics treated a 58-year-old man for minor wounds from the exploding glass.

The Israeli army said the strikes were a response to explosive balloons launched by Hamas-affiliated group over the border, and attempts by Palestinian protesters to throw explosives at the Israel-Gaza perimeter fence and soldiers stationed along it.

Dozens of Palestinians took part in the protests. The military said the protesters “burned tyres, hurled explosive devices and grenades towards the security fence and attempted to approach it”.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Israeli gunfire at protesters wounded two Palestinians.

Israel holds Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, responsible for all attacks emanating from the Palestinian territory.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza closed until further notice in response to the rocket fire.

Following a meeting yesterday with the top army brass, Gantz said in a statement that Israel “will respond forcefully to any violation of sovereignty until complete quiet is restored in the south. If Sderot isn’t quiet, Gaza won’t be either”.

A Palestinian boy inspects the damage in his family home following Israeli airstrikes in Buriej refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. PHOTO: AP