Hamas fires rockets into central Israel for the first time in months

U.N. court tells Israel to end Rafah activity

Hamas claimed Sunday it fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza toward central Israel as rocket sirens rang for the first time in cities like Tel Aviv.

Hamas’ military wing claimed the attack and rocket launches could be heard in central Gaza, The Associated Press reported.

In a statement on its Telegram channel on Sunday, al-Qassam Brigades said the rockets were launched in response to what it called “Zionist massacres against civilians,” Reuters reported.

The Israel Defense Forces said its air defenses intercepted several projectiles after eight rockets were launched from Rafah in the Gaza Strip toward Israel.

The militants have fired projectiles at communities around Gaza during the war, but have not fired longer-range rockets in months.

Israeli military vehicles drive in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Friday, May 24, 2024.
Tsafrir Abayov / AP

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January, the Associated Press reported.

This latest escalation came hours after aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Israeli forces seized the southern city of Rafah earlier this month. It was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of the ongoing fighting in the area.

Egypt refuses to reopen its side of the Rafah crossing until control of the Gaza side is handed back to Palestinians. It agreed to temporarily divert traffic through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza’s main cargo terminal, after a call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The war between Israel and Hamas, now in its eighth month, has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials. Around 80% of the population’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and U.N. officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which its militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas is still holding some 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a cease-fire last year.

On Saturday, CBS News reported that U.S. diplomatic efforts to broker a deal to release hostages held in Gaza by Hamas are expected to continue in the coming week. Negotiators from Qatar, Egypt and the United States will be part of the talks.

“There is progress,” a senior Biden administration official told CBS News. “Contacts are ongoing and we are working closely with Egyptian and Qatari mediators. These contacts will continue through the coming week as we seek to move the negotiating process forward.”

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