Netanyahu cuts short Washington visit after Gaza rocket hits house

Tel Aviv - By Tamara Zieve and Sara Lemel, - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will cut short his visit to Washington after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in central Israel, injuring seven.
Netanyahu said he will still meet with President Donald Trump on Monday but then return to Israel straight afterwards "to manage our actions from close at hand."

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the rocket launch came from the Palestinian coastal enclave, and the army tweeted footage of an urban area north-east of Tel Aviv in which the wailing of air-raid sirens can be heard.
The Magen David Adom emergency service said three children were among the injured at the house in the community of Mishmeret: a baby, a 3-year-old child and a 12-year-old girl.
A 60-year old woman and a 30-year-old woman received shrapnel injuries, and other people were treated for shock.
The house caught fire and was destroyed.
In light of the rocket strike, the Erez and Kerem Shalom Crossings into the Gaza Strip were closed by Israel. The coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, also announced the "scaling back of the fishing zone in the Gaza Strip, all until further notice."
Netanyahu said in a video statement released by his office: "There was a criminal attack on the state of Israel and we will respond with force."
Netanyahu had on Tuesday been scheduled to attend an annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful pro-Israel lobby group.
Trump will host Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, a meeting which comes just two weeks before the Israeli leader faces a tightly contested election.
The pair had also been scheduled to meet again for dinner on Tuesday.
His meetings with Trump and address to AIPAC were seen as likely to boost his re-election bid at home, but with the escalating security situation he would likely have been criticized had he stayed in the US.
The New Right party, which sits further right on the political spectrum than Netanyahu's Likud, said in response to the rocket strike: "Israel's deterrence has collapsed, and we have to say honestly: Netanyahu failed against Hamas."
The hawkish leader of the New Right, Naftali Bennett, is vying for the defence minister position, which is currently held by Netanyahu. "Netanyahu is a good prime minister and a failed defence minister," the party said in a statement, adding "the time has come to appoint Bennett as defence minister in order to defeat Hamas."
While Palestinian militants frequently fire rockets at areas surrounding the Gaza Strip, it is rare for rockets to hit areas so far away.
A source in Hamas in Gaza said that the rocket was fired due to a technical mistake that was a result of the stormy weather, according to Al Arabiya satellite television.
Rockets were fired at Tel Aviv on March 14 in the first such Palestinian attack since the 2014 Israel-Gaza war. In that case too, Hamas said the rockets had been fired by mistake.
Israel then responded with intensive airstrikes on around 100 targets in the Gaza Strip.
This week marks one year since the beginning of the "Great March of Return" demonstrations in which tens of thousands of Gazans have taken part in the demonstrations, demanding Palestinians be allowed to return to what is now Israel. Escalations are expected on Friday at the weekly protest.
More than 260 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured since the protests began last year, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Monday, March 25th 2019
By Tamara Zieve and Sara Lemel,

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