World Bulletin/News Desk
Israel said it shot down a drone from Gaza a week into its offensive on Monday, the first reported deployment of an unmanned aircraft by Palestinian fighters whose rocket attacks have been regularly intercepted.
The Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing, claimed responsibility for a drone that was shot down by the Israeli army earlier Monday over the coastal city of Ashdod.
In a brief statement, the brigades said it managed to "launch drones in the Israeli airspace" and to carry out "special missions" - a development which, if confirmed, would mark a step up in the sophistication of its arsenal.
More than 166 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, Gaza health officials said, in seven days of fighting that has shown no sign of ending.
Israeli aircraft and naval gunboats attacked 204 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, said the army, in the worst flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence in almost two years. Health officials said at least 20 people were wounded.
Palestinian militants fired more than 20 rockets into Israel, causing no casualties, the military added.
The Israeli military said the drone was intercepted near the port of Ashdod by a U.S.-built Patriot missile, used largely ineffectively by Israel against Iraqi Scud missiles in the 1991 Gulf War.
"An aerial drone from Gaza infiltrated Israel a short time ago. [Israeli Defense Forces] IDF forces shot it down with a Patriot missile above Ashdod," the army said on its official Twitter account.
The force was trying to locate debris in the area about 25 km (15 miles) north of Gaza, and determine whether it had carried explosives.
Israel has launched a military operation – dubbed Operation Protective Edge - with the stated goal of ending rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Since late Monday, Israeli warplanes have staged hundreds of airstrikes on the besieged enclave – home to around 1.8 million Palestinians - while ground troops remain amassed on the borders in advance of a possible ground assault.
At least 172 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Israeli aerial attacks.
Gaza-based resistance factions, meanwhile, have continued to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel, some of which have reached Tel Aviv, in response to the ongoing offensive.
Last Mod: 14 Temmuz 2014, 12:58