Israeli military accuses Hamas of firing rockets

Palestinians inspect a destroyed Hamas site after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City

Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel, the Israeli army said on Thursday, prompting concerns about possible Israeli retaliation against the besieged Palestinian territory.

Hamas denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group's military wing was meeting with Egyptian mediators to try to strengthen a cease-fire between Gaza militants and Israel.

Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and witnesses said Iron Dome interceptor missiles were fired skyward and detonated - although the military said no rockets were shot down.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage.

Local media reports Hamas is rapidly evacuating military posts across the Gaza Strip in anticipation of incoming Israeli airstrikes.

The rocket barrage triggered air raid sirens across the city, which is Israel's densely populated commercial and cultural capital.

Gaza is controlled by Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel's destruction. Israeli sources said after the security meeting that, "decisions had been made". The Hamas administration vowed to "take measures" against those behind the salvo, which it described as violating the "factional and national consensus" governing Gaza.

A Hamas official told the The Times of Israel that the terror group "has no interest in an escalation" with Israel.

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai told the television one of the Gaza rockets "apparently fell into the sea, the other hit somewhere but not in Tel Aviv".

Israel's municipality announced that public bomb shelters in the Tel Aviv area would be opened.

He said that while "rogue factions" were behind recent Gaza "provocations", it "did not exempt Hamas" of responsibility.

The Home Front Command did not give any special instructions to Israelis and said they could continue to carry on as normal.

Among those participating were Chief-of-Staff Lt. -Gen Aviv Kochavi, National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) head Nadav Argaman, and other senior security establishment officials.

Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group that also has a large rocket arsenal, also denied firing the rockets.

"I suggest to Hamas, don't count on it", he told his Cabinet.

Thursday's incident is the first time since the 2014 war that rockets from Gaza have come anywhere near Tel Aviv. "We will do anything necessary to restore security and quiet to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and to the south in general".

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