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Hamas fires rockets at Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva after deadliest night of Israeli raids on Gaza

Palestinian firefighters douse a huge fire at the Foamco mattress factory east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 17, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Hamas’ military wing says it has fired rockets at the Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva areas after the deadliest night of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since the beginning of relentless attacks on the besieged enclave last Monday.

In a statement early Monday morning, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades announced that it targeted areas in the southern Israeli-occupied territories with rockets in response to the Israeli regime’s continued onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israeli media reported rocket warning sirens in the Ashkelon area as well as in communities surrounding Gaza and in Netivot following the Hamas rocket attack.

Warning sirens were also heard in the southern city of Be'er Sheva and several nearby communities.

The retaliation came after the Israeli military unleashed a fierce bombing attack on Gaza on Sunday. Reuters reported that the aerial bombardment involved more than 100 strikes.

According to the AP, explosions rocked the city from north to south for ten minutes, lasting longer and targeting a wider area than previous air raids.

Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards the Gaza Strip from their position along the border with the Palestinian enclave, on May 17, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Later on Monday, Palestinian media reported that Israeli artillery shells hit the Foamco mattress factory in northern Gaza, sparking a fire.

A resident of Jabalia was reportedly killed and another wounded in the Israeli artillery shelling.

International calls mounted for a ceasefire on Sunday, as the UN Security Council tried to issue a joint statement with that aim, only to be blocked by the US – a close ally of the Israeli regime.

Israel pounded security buildings and roads leading to hospitals in Gaza on Sunday, a day after the Tel Aviv regime targeted a tower that housed offices of news agencies, such as the AP and Al Jazeera.

With the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan, clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank after Israeli forces and settlers harassed Palestinian worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere. The regime’s military also tried to force Palestinians out of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to build more illegal settlements.

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target the Palestinian enclave, early on May 17, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

So far, at least 197 Palestinians, including 58 children and 34 women, have been killed in Israeli air raids, and more than 1,200 people have been injured. The Sunday raids solely killed 42 Palestinians, including 10 children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Two doctors killed in Gaza

The ministry also said two doctors were killed as a result of the Israeli airstrikes.

“Today we commemorate Doctor Ayman Abu al-Auf, a knight from the knights of health workers, a scientist, skilled doctor and a model human being,” it said in a statement.

The Gaza health ministry said it would name an education hall at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza after Abu al-Auf. The other medic killed was identified as Moean Alalol.

In a Sunday press briefing, Yusuf Abu al-Reesh, the secretary of the Gaza health ministry, denounced Israeli attacks targeting health and humanitarian workers, saying the attacks have had “devastating impacts on people and the environment.”

“Residential buildings have been destroyed, schools, places of worship, roads, media offices, government buildings and business and electronic lines,” Abu al-Reesh said.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have said the regime’s acts of aggression against Gaza will not conclude soon, rejecting international calls for an end to the atrocities. 

The Israeli military claimed it tried to avoid civilian casualties, blaming Hamas for “intentionally locating its military infrastructure under civilian houses, thus exposing civilians to danger.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, in response, said that as usual “Israel is trying to mislead the public opinion through these lies in an attempt to justify the crime and escape responsibility.”

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