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Hamas launches mortar shells

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hamas launched eight mortar shells from central Gaza, but they all landed in Palestinian areas.

The Israeli Air Force struck back following the Tuesday afternoon attack, destroying a rocket launcher, according to reports. The attack was a violation of the Hamas cease-fire after two days of calm.

The failed attack followed two incidents of Palestinian gunmen firing on Israeli troops leaving Gaza, the first violations of the cease-fire that began in the early hours of Jan. 18 after Israel’s unilateral declaration. The first incident took place at the Gaza border near the Kissufim crossing. Less than an hour later a gunman shot at troops in the central Gaza Strip.

Israeli defense officials said the attacks undermine humanitarian efforts, since they appear to target border crossings, Ynet reported. The trucks carrying humanitarian aid also have been looted, according to Ynet.

Also Tuesday, the Israeli army issued a warning through the Arab-language media to Gazans urging them to stay away from unexploded rockets and report the rockets’ locations to the army’s District Coordination Office in Israel.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces was scheduled to release the reservists called up on an emergency basis two weeks ago. The IDF was working to remove its last troops from Gaza Tuesday, with regular troops set to remain near the Gaza border.

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