Bombs and rockets greet Israel-Gulf states pacts

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 17 Sep 2020

Israel bombed Gaza after militants fired rockets through the night, overshadowing the signing of normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in Washington.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the militants of seeking to stop peace deals - Israel's first with an Arab country since 1994 - though neither the UAE nor Bahrain have ever been at war with Israel.

From Hamas-ruled Gaza came a warning that Israel faced an escalation if the bombing continued - barely two weeks after a renewed Egyptian-brokered truce halted nightly exchanges across the border in August.

The signing of the two agreements at a White House ceremony hosted by President Donald Trump prompted protest rallies across the Palestinian territories.

The deals broke with decades of Arab consensus that there would be no normalization of relations with Israel until it had made peace with the Palestinians and drew accusations of "betrayal" against the Western-backed Gulf states.

Trump claimed the agreements "will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region" and said Israel would enter into similar deals with up to nine other countries, including Saudi Arabia.

But Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the deals would not achieve peace until the United States and Israel acknowledged his people's right to a state.

At least 15 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip from Tuesday evening until early yesterday.

Most were intercepted by Israeli defenses, but one hit the southern port city of Ashdod, wounding at least two people.

"We were surprised by the rockets," said Ilanit Levy, a resident of Sderot, an Israeli town close to the Gaza border.

"Maybe they want to damage the agreements."

Israeli attack aircraft responded with strikes on Hamas targets, though there had been no claim of responsibility for the rockets.

Netanyahu accused militants of seeking to derail the deals with the two Gulf states. "We will hit everyone who tries to harm us, and we will extend a hand of peace to all who reach out to us," he declared.

The twin agreements prompted demonstrations in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

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