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Israeli jets bomb Gaza after rocket sirens force Netanyahu off election rally stage

Bodyguards bundle Israeli PM away at rally in Ashdod hours after he announced plans to annex Jordan Valley if re-elected
Netanyahu was unhurt and several minutes later he continued his speech, which was broadcast live on social media by his Likud party (Twitter screengrab)

Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip on Wednesday hours after rockets from the Palestinian enclave triggered sirens that forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu off the stage at an election rally in Israel.

The Israeli military said 15 targets were hit, including a weapons manufacturing facility, a naval compound used by militants and tunnels belonging to Hamas, which governs the besieged enclave.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Tuesday's rocket attack happened shortly after Netanyahu announced a plan to annex part of the occupied West Bank if re-elected in a general election on 17 September.

Bodyguards rushed the prime minister to shelter in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod when the sirens sounded during Tuesday evening's rally.

Netanyahu was unhurt and several minutes later he continued his speech, which was broadcast live on social media by his right-wing Likud party.

The Israeli military said two rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip towards Ashdod and another port city, Ashkelon, just to the south, and were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

It said Wednesday's strikes in Gaza came in response to the rocket launchings, for which there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

'Yet another Israeli crime'

The Palestine Liberation Organisation's secretary general Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday that Netanyahu's annexation announcement should be added to a long history of Israel violating international law, adding that the Jordan Valley is an "integral part of occupied Palestine".

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"Israel's unprecedented culture of impunity, enabled by international inaction, is the only explanation for Mr Netanyahu's audacity in using annexation as an election ploy, and asking the Israeli public to facilitate yet another Israeli crime," Erekat said in a statement.

He further called on the international community to stop Netanyahu from blocking any prospects that could lead to an independent Palestinian state.

Israel seized Gaza in 1967 and pulled out its settlers and troops in 2005. 

It maintains a crippling blockade of the Strip which critics say amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave's two million residents.

Egypt also upholds the siege, restricting movement in and out of Gaza on its border.