Israel struck bases of militant groups in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas said, hours after nearly 30 mortars rounds were fired at the Jewish state.
At least one base belonging to Hamas and four for Islamic Jihad, an allied group, were struck, security sources said. A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, confirmed only that “resistance” bases were being hit. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Israel’s military said it was “currently operating in the Gaza Strip. The explosions heard are related to this activity. Details to follow.”
The strikes came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged a “powerful” response to some 28 mortar shells fired at Israel from Gaza early Tuesday. There were no reports of injuries.
One mortar shell exploded near a kindergarten building, a military spokesman said, causing damage to the structure. It was the largest projectile barrage from Gaza targeting Israel since a 2014 war, according to Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the mortars, which Israeli media speculated were fired by Islamic Jihad. Israel holds Hamas responsible for any fire from Gaza. It has controlled the Palestinian enclave since 2007.
A statement from the Israeli army said that “25 mortar shells were launched towards several sites in Israeli territory.” “Most of the launches were intercepted by the IDF's Iron Dome aerial defence system,” the army said. Police said that “a number of the mortars landed in open areas inside Israel,” with no injuries reported.
On Monday, a Palestinian who approached the border fence with what the Israeli army said an “intention of carrying out an attack” was killed by tank fire.
At least 121 Palestinians have been killed during weeks of unrest since March 30, when Palestinians began calling to be allowed to return to their historic homelands inside Israel. The majority were killed during protests along the border, including at least 61 on May 14. Others have been killed in air strikes.
Also on Tuesday, a group of activist Palestinians were due to set sail to breach Israel’s naval blockade by boat. The destination of the boat, carrying patients needing medical care, students and job-seeking university graduates, was not announced.
The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli blockade for more than a decade, with Israel saying it is necessary to prevent the Palestinian enclave’s militant Hamas rulers from obtaining means to attack the Jewish state.