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With elections weeks away, Israel pounds Gaza

Follow the live blog for the latest developments from the Gaza Strip

March 25, 2019 at 4:52 pm

A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli air strike on building believed to house the offices of Hamas chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, during Israeli strikes on the Gaza City, March 25, 2019 [Ashraf Amra / ApaImages]

Israel yesterday began strikes on the Gaza Strip, hitting targets across the already-besieged enclave. MEMO is liveblogging the latest developments.

The strikes began at around 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT), after Israel spent the day preparing for the assault. After claiming that a rocket was fired from Gaza on a town north of Tel Aviv, the Israeli army sent two army brigades – amounting to over 1,000 soldiers – to the Gaza fence and called up reservists from aerial units in preparation for air strikes.

Israel also locked down the Gaza Strip, closing the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) and Erez (Beit Hanoun) crossings which allow goods and medical supplies into the enclave. It also reduced the fishing zone it imposes off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast, further blockading the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who also serves as the country’s defence minister – cut short his trip to the US to oversee the assault, returning to Israel “to manage our operations up close”. With just two weeks to go before Israel’s upcoming general election on 9 April, commentators have speculated that Netanyahu may hit Gaza with a particularly heavy hand in order to prove himself to the country’s right-wing and secure his re-election in the wake of struggling polling figures.

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