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Hamas evacuates ahead of Israeli strikes after major Iran-backed rocket attack

Special to WorldTribune.com

GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime has been bracing for massive Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian sources said the Hamas military has evacuated all of its bases in the Gaza Strip amid intense rocket fire by the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad.

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza town of Rafah on March 13.  /AFP/Said Khatib

Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza town of Rafah on March 13. /AFP/Said Khatib

The sources said Hamas was not trying to stop the attacks by Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees, which prompted widespread Israeli retaliation.

“We hold the occupation [Israel] responsible,” Hamas spokesman Ihab Ghassin said. “We warn of the consequences of any escalation, and we reiterate that resistance is the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself.”

On March 13, Israel and Jihad exchanged heavy fire for the second straight day. Jihad resumed rocket launches into the Jewish state, including the central city of Ashdod, and the Israel Air Force struck at least 30 targets.

“This is the biggest attack on Israel since the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense,” the Israeli military said.

The sources said Hamas was coordinating the rocket attacks with Jihad,
which on March 13 unveiled an underground rocket launcher.

They said up to a third of the Jihad short-range rockets were falling within
the Gaza Strip, in some cases near residential areas.

“Following intensive Egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for
calm has been restored in accordance with understandings reached in 2012 in
Cairo,” Jihad leader Khaled Batsh said.

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