June 7, 2015 / 5:19 AM / 3 years ago

Israeli aircraft strike, PM accuses world of ignoring Gaza rockets

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli aircraft bombed the Gaza Strip on Sunday after the latest in a series of Palestinian rocket attacks that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the international community of ignoring.

The Omar Brigades, a Palestinian group that supports Islamic State, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s salvo, which, like the Israeli air strikes, caused no casualties.

Israel closed its border crossings with the Hamas-controlled enclave and Netanyahu hinted at a stronger Israeli military response if the cross-border attacks persist.

It was the third such rocket strike by Jihadi Salafis, radical rivals of Hamas, who are demanding the ruling Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip release imprisoned Islamic State sympathizers and that Israel frees Palestinian inmates.

Political analysts in Gaza said the Salafis hoped the prospect of the collapse of Hamas’s ceasefire with Israel, after a 50-day war nearly a year ago, would pressure the group to free the men.

Israel said Hamas bore overall responsibility for any rocket attacks from the enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians.

Netanyahu seized on the strikes to launch his own attack against international criticism of his right-wing government’s policies toward the Palestinians and its opposition to a burgeoning nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

“I did not hear anybody in the international community condemn this firing at us from Gaza, neither has the United Nations said a word,” he told his cabinet in public remarks.

Hinting at a stronger Israeli military response to any further cross-border attacks, Netanyahu said: “It will be interesting to see if this silence continues when we use our full strength to uphold our right to defend ourselves.”

The United States on Sunday reaffirmed its support for Israel’s right to defend itself.

“Clearly the U.S. stands with the people of Israel as they defend their people and their nation against these kinds of attacks,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who was accompanying President Barack Obama at a G7 summit in Germany.

U.S.-sponsored peace talks collapsed in April 2014, with disputes raging over Israeli settlement in occupied territory and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s unity deal with Hamas.

Israel’s critics, Netanyahu said, were accusing it of failing to pursue peace when it was the Palestinians who “ran away from negotiations”.

After Saturday’s rocket strike, Israel closed two main crossings on its border with Gaza.

The rocket, which triggered warning sirens in the city of Ashkelon, about 10 km (6 miles) north of Gaza, exploded in an open area. Israeli aircraft later struck a Hamas training facility, where no casualties were reported.

Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Paul Taylor in Kruen, Germany; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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