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IDF rejects Hamas claim it hit hospital, cites secondary blasts from arms stash

Responding to Gaza rocket fire on Israel, army says it hit rocket manufacturing facility and saw ‘secondary explosions which are suspected of causing the damage to nearby hospital’

A Palestinian man checks damage caused by an overnight Israeli air strike on Hamas targets in Gaza City, on December 26, 2020, after terrorists in the Palestinian enclave fired rockets toward Israeli territory. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A Palestinian man checks damage caused by an overnight Israeli air strike on Hamas targets in Gaza City, on December 26, 2020, after terrorists in the Palestinian enclave fired rockets toward Israeli territory. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Hamas terror group on Saturday denounced as “barbaric” overnight strikes by the Israel Defense Forces — in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip — that it said damaged a children’s hospital in the Palestinian enclave.

But the Israeli military flatly denied hitting the hospital, and said exploding Hamas munitions may have done so.

The IDF said it struck three Hamas targets in the predawn hours of Saturday morning, including a rocket manufacturing site, underground infrastructure and a military post, after two rockets were fired from Gaza earlier in the evening.

The Ynet news site on Saturday, citing Palestinian sources, reported that the rocket factory targeted in the strikes was a major facility for the terror group, used to improve the capabilities of its munitions.

Gaza’s Hamas ruler said in a statement that the strike on the site, which was also located next door to a Pepsi factory, had damaged a nearby children’s hospital and a center for people with special needs. Medical sources in Gaza said the strikes “lightly wounded” two civilians, including a child.

The Israeli army, however, insisted on Saturday afternoon that it did not strike the hospital.

“Secondary explosions, which were identified from the strike on the Hamas rocket manufacturing site, are suspected of causing the damage to the nearby hospital,” an army statement said.

Hamas “deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated areas,” while the Israeli army “takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians and civilian buildings,” the statement added.

On Friday evening, two rockets fired from Gaza were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

The IDF confirmed that the projectiles fired into Israel were intercepted by its air defenses.

Sirens warning of the incoming rockets blared in several southern Israeli communities near Gaza, sending residents into shelters. The warning sirens sounded in Ashkelon, Zikim, Netiv Ha’asara and nearby towns in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

Israeli emergency medical services said several people were treated for shock.

Last month, two rockets fired from Gaza struck open areas along the coast — one near the city of Ashdod and the other on Palmachim Beach, south of Tel Aviv — causing no significant damage or injuries.

Illustrative: An explosion caused by Iron Dome air defense system missiles intercepting rockets fired from Gaza, February 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra/ File)

Soldiers operating the Iron Dome air defense system attempted to shoot down the rocket fired toward Palmachim Beach, firing at least two interceptor missiles at the projectile, but did not shoot it down. Fragments of an interceptor missile landed in the nearby city of Bat Yam, causing minor damage.

The rocket fire last month came days after the one-year anniversary of the killing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata.

Israel has fought three large campaigns against terror groups in the Strip since Hamas took control of the area in 2007, along with dozens of smaller exchanges of fire.

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