Israel launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday hitting tunnels as Palestinian prime minister said that Israel must begin to "roll back" its occupation of the Palestinian territories to convince Palestinians it wants a peace deal that would give them statehood.
Witnesses said five missiles were fired by Israeli air force fighter jets at an airport that is not operational and on tunnels Israel says are used to smuggle weapons into the coastal territory.
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed the attacks took place saying the air strikes targeted two sites where tunnels were dug to help gunmen infiltrate from Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza into Israel and to smuggle in weapons from Egypt.
The strikes were in response to two explosive devices that washed up on Israel's coastline the previous day, and rockets fired at Israel, including one that slammed into a farming area on Tuesday causing no injury, the Israeli spokesman said.
The attacks came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference alongside Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that Israel would respond to the explosives found on the country's Mediterranean beaches.
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad meanwhile was addressing an audience alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that rolling back should start by ending army incursions in the West Bank, where the Palestinians aim to establish their state, along with Gaza.
"Unfortunately those incursions continue," Fayyad told the Herzliya Conference, which annually attracts prominent figures in the Israeli political and diplomatic establishment.
Halting the practice and handing over more security responsibilities to the Palestinians on their land would show that the Israeli occupation is being "rolled back on its way to ending", Fayyad said.
After over 16 years of "peace process" that has yielded little, Palestinians needed to see convincing, concrete signs that new talks would lead to where they want to go.
With peace talks frozen for more than a year, Fayyad's attendance was the highest-level public encounter between a Palestinian and Israeli official since September, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York under U.S. auspices.
That meeting failed to break the impasse between them and U.S. efforts to broker a resumption of peace talks have yet to yield a breakthrough and a resumption of negotiations.
Fayyad echoed Abbas's opposition to any more peace talks without a full halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, occupied since 1967. Without such a freeze, the Palestinians would doubt the value of more talks, he said.
On his part, Barak, leader of the Labor Party and a former prime minister, praised what he called Fayyad's "practical and concrete" thinking. "Important things are happening," he said, highlighting reform of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank as an area of progress.
"Israel has a clear silent majority in favor of peace," Barak said, and it does not want "apartheid" rule over the Palestinians. It must "set borders for the land of Israel that would comprise a massive and solid Jewish majority for generations" with a Palestinian state as its neighbor.
"We have a supreme responsibility ... to advance in the diplomatic process. The alternatives are much worse," he said.