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Israeli war jets strike Gaza as a response to earlier rocket attack

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Gaza: Israeli war jets struck air-to-ground missiles at military facilities in the Gaza Strip, in response to earlier rockets fired from the enclave into Israel, witnesses and security officials said.

Witnesses said the war jets kept hovering over the Gaza Strip, where several explosions were heard in its northern, central and southern areas, Xinhua news agency reported.

Firefighters and ambulances rushed to the targeted areas.

Paramedics said no injuries were reported, while police and security forces evacuated buildings and security headquarters all over Gaza in fear of being targeted by Israel.

Security officials said that at least one missile was fired at a training facility that belongs to the Islamic Hamas movement’s armed wing, known as al-Qassam Brigades. A huge explosion was heard in the area but no injuries were reported.

The Israeli airstrike was in response to an earlier rocket attack on Israel carried out from northern Gaza city. Israel said three rockets were fired into Israel, but caused no damages or injuries.

However, Palestinian sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a radical Islamic Salafist group, affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, was responsible for firing the rockets into Israel.

The Israeli media had earlier reported that the Salafists fired rockets into Israel due to deep differences with Hamas movement following Hamas’s crackdown on the group and the killing of one of its members on Tuesday.

It is the second time in one week that this group fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Last week, Israeli war jets carried out six airstrikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad military facilities in response to firing of rockets.

On Tuesday, a Salafist group, affiliated with the IS, claimed responsibility for the rockets, which were fired from Gaza into Israel. It said in a video tape that it was not committed to any truce with Israel.

The group also claimed responsibility for the rocket attack and gave Hamas a 48-hour ultimatum to stop its crackdown on its militants and bring back all the weapons Hamas had confiscated from them.

The airstrikes on Gaza last week and on Thursday have been the most intensive ones since the end of a large-scale Israeli military operation on the Gaza Strip that lasted for 50 days and ended on August 26 last year. (IANS)

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US Backed Fighters Say, ‘They Have Taken Position in Islamic State Enclave in Syria’

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them

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Fire is seen during fighting in the Islamic State's final enclave, in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 17, 2019. VOA

U.S.-backed fighters said they had taken positions in Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria and air strikes pounded the tiny patch of land beside the Euphrates River early on Monday, a Reuters journalist said.

Smoke rose over the tiny enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it. Another witness said the jihadists had earlier mounted a counter attack.

“Several positions captured and an ammunition storage has been blown up,” said Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, on Twitter late on Sunday.

The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them.

Backed by air power and special forces from a U.S.-led coalition, the SDF has pushed Islamic State from almost the entire northeastern corner of Syria, defeating it in Raqqa in 2017 and driving it to its last enclave at Baghouz last year.

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The Islamic State group’s last pocket of territory in Baghouz, Syria, as seen from a distance on Sunday, March 17, 2019. VOA

But while its defeat at Baghouz will end its control of populated land in the third of Syria and Iraq that it captured in 2014, the group will remain a threat, regional and Western officials say.

The SDF has waged a staggered assault on the enclave, pausing for long periods over recent weeks to allow surrendering fighters, their families and other civilians to pour out.

Since Jan. 9, more than 60,000 people have left the enclave, about half of them surrendering Islamic State supporters including some 5,000 fighters, the SDF said on Sunday.

People leaving the area have spoken of harsh conditions inside, under coalition bombardment and with supplies of food so scarce some resorted to eating grass.

Last month, the SDF said it had found a mass grave in an area it captured.

Still, many of those who left Baghouz have vowed their allegiance to the jihadist group, which last week put out a propaganda film from inside the enclave calling on its supporters to keep faith.

Suicide attacks on Friday targeted families of Islamic State fighters attempting to leave the enclave and surrender, killing six people, the SDF said.

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Late on Sunday, the Kurdish Ronahi TV station aired footage showing a renewed assault on the enclave, with fires seen to be raging inside and tracer fire and rockets zooming into the tiny area.

The SDF and the coalition say the Islamic State fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters, though Western countries believe its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left the area. (VOA)