ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST
Israeli police explosive experts survey the scene at a petrol station after it was hit by a rocket in the southern city of Ashdod July 11, 2014. Israeli air strikes on Gaza killed four more Palestinians before dawn on Friday, raising the death toll from the four day offensive to at least 85, while a Palestinian rocket hit a fuel tanker at the Israeli petrol station causing a huge blaze. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3Y4A0 Amir Cohen/Reuters
Gaza rocket fire struck a gas station and set it ablaze Friday in southern Israel, seriously wounding one person as rocket fire also came from Lebanon for the first time in the four-day offensive.
The attack on the gas station in Ashdod looked to be the most serious attack in Israel in the four days of fighting that has seen Israel deliver a heavy blow to Gaza's Hamas leaders. The military have carried out more than 1,000 strike strikes against Gaza targets that have killed at least 95 people, including dozens of civilians.
The explosion in Ashdod sent plumes of smoke high into the air, leaving a trail of charred vehicles in its wake. Israeli health officials said the blast wounded three people, including one in serious condition. Rocket fire continued in earnest from Gaza toward various locations in southern Israel and around Tel Aviv.
In northern Israel, rocket fire struck near the Lebanese border and the military responded with artillery fire toward the source in southern Lebanon, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
The Lebanese military said three rockets were fired toward Israel around 6 a.m. local time and the Israelis retaliated by firing about 25 artillery shells on the area.
Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said that one of those suspected of firing the rockets was wounded and rushed to a hospital. The Lebanese military said troops found two rocket launchers and dismantled them.
Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of the Shia militant group Hezbollah, which has battled Israel numerous times. However, recent fire from Lebanon has been blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area and Hezbollah has not been involved in the ongoing offensive.
Battalions of Ziad Jarrah
A Lebanon-based al-Qaeda-linked group, the Battalions of Ziad Jarrah, claimed responsibility in the past for similar rocket attacks on Israel.
Gaza militants already have fired more than 550 rockets against Israel in the four-day offensive. Israel's "Iron Dome" defence system has intercepted most of those aimed at major cities but some have slipped through.
Frequent air raid sirens sounded across Israel on Friday, including for the first time in the northern city of Haifa. Israel has shot down at least 110 incoming rockets thus far.
Israel launched the Gaza offensive to stop incessant rocket fire that erupted after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank and a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death in an apparent reprisal attack.
The military says it has hit more than 1,100 targets already, mostly what it identified as rocket-launching sites, bombarding the territory on average every five minutes.
Israeli airstrike hits home of Islamic Jihad leader
In Gaza, an Israeli airstrike Friday hit the home of a well-known Islamic Jihad leader. Gaza health officials said five people were killed in the strike.
Lerner said the military was doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, calling inhabitants ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks. He said Israeli forces also fire "non-explosive munitions" at roofs as a warning and looks for people to leave before destroying a structure.
Lerner blamed Hamas for the death of innocent bystanders by firing from heavily populated areas.
Israel's military "uses its weapons to defend its civilians. Hamas uses its civilians to defend its weapons," he said.
Israeli leaders are mulling whether to launch a ground assault in Gaza to target Hamas. Such a move, though, would likely involve a rise in Palestinian civilian casualties and put Israeli troops at risk as well.
During a ground incursion in early 2009, hundreds of civilians were killed and both sides drew war crimes accusations in a United Nations report
Israel has mobilized more than 30,000 reservists to supplement the potential ground operation.
Hamas wing threatens Israel's main airport
Meanwhile, Hamas's armed wing said on Friday it intends to fire rockets from the Gaza Strip at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion international airport and warned airlines not to fly to Israel's main gateway to the world.
The airport has been fully operational since Israel began an aerial offensive on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants intensified their cross-border rocket fire.
"The armed wing of the Hamas movement has decided to respond to the Israeli aggression, and we warn you against carrying out flights to Ben-Gurion airport, which will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base," said a statement by the Islamist group's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.
The group, which said it had issued the warning to airlines so that injury to their passengers could be avoided, announced earlier that it had already fired at least one rocket towards the airport on Friday.
A spokesman for Israel's Airports Authority said a siren had sounded at Ben-Gurion and that all activity had stopped for about 10 minutes, but that it was part of a general alert in the Tel Aviv area and not a direct threat to the airport.
At the start of the Israeli offensive on Tuesday, takeoffs and landings at Ben-Gurion were re-routed to more northerly flight paths.
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