Gaza militants fire rockets out to sea in military drill
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a salvo of rockets into the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday as part of a self-styled military drill aimed at preparing for a possible war with Israel.
The Islamic militant group Hamas has ruled Gaza since seizing power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. It has fought three wars and numerous smaller skirmishes with Israel since then. A fragile, informal truce has mostly held in recent years, with only occasional exchanges of fire.
Authorities in Gaza restricted movement along the main coastal road and barred fishing for the duration of the exercises, which were to continue for a period of 24 hours and included the use of aerial drones.
The drill was held by the Joint Command Room, which brings together a dozen militant factions but is dominated by Hamas.
A masked spokesman for the militants said the “defensive maneuvers” also demonstrated their rejection of the “agreements of shame,” referring to the recent U.S.-brokered normalization accords between Israel and a number of Arab states.
The Palestinians view the agreements as a betrayal of their cause because the Arab countries recognized Israel without securing concessions in the long-moribund peace process. Hamas is a sworn enemy of Israel that has rejected past attempts at a negotiated solution to the conflict.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power, which Israel says is necessary to keep the militants from building up their arsenal. Critics of the blockade view it as collective punishment of the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents.