Rocket, mortar fire from Gaza draws Israel aircraft strike


The Israeli military said its aircraft struck a Palestinian rocket launching pad and an unidentified militant activity site in the Gaza Strip in response to persistent rocket and mortar fire from the coastal territory.

The military also says Gaza armed groups launched 11 rockets and mortars into southern Israel early on Monday. No casualties were reported on either side, according to The Associated Press.

The hostilities undercut a brittle, informal truce that went into effect last week after the worst outbreak of violence between the two sides in months.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Gaza’s ruling Islamist Hamas movement, claimed responsibility for firing the rockets on Israel, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP two rockets fell in open areas within the Eshkol district which flanks the southern sector of the Gaza border, while another two landed in and around Beersheva, a city of 194,000 people.

None of them caused any injuries or damage.

An army spokeswoman later said that other rockets had hit Israeli territory during the day, also without causing any harm.

In Gaza, gunmen from the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the two rockets fired at Beersheva, according to AFP.

Late Sunday the Israeli air force carried out two raids on the Gaza Strip, destroying one home but causing no casualties, Palestinian security sources said.

The army spokesman confirmed the raids which he said were aimed at “the rocket launcher sites and terrorist activities.”

The exchanges prompted Beersheva mayor Ruvik Danilovitch to cancel school classes until further notice.

“Many of the houses in our town are not protected (against rocket fire) and we cannot play with the lives of our children,” he told Israeli public radio.

Early Sunday, an Israeli air strike killed a Hamas gunman and wounded another after they fired mortar shells at Israeli tanks on an incursion near the southern city of Khan Yunis, Palestinian medics and witnesses said.

The dead man was named as Suleiman Kamel al-Qara, 25, a member of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

The wounded man was also said to be a Hamas gunman.

The military confirmed the strike but refused to comment on the allegation Israeli armor had entered the Palestinian territory and come under fire from militants.

“Overnight (Saturday), IAF (air force) aircraft targeted a rocket launching site and squad in the central Gaza Strip, during final preparations to fire a rocket towards southern Israel. Secondary explosions were identified and a hit was confirmed,” it said, implying ammunition or explosives were hit.

Armed groups had fired more than 150 rockets at Israel since the start of the month, it said.

The latest exchanges took place after a three-day lull in violence after an Egyptian brokered truce went into force at midnight on Wednesday.

The agreement was aimed at ending a 72-hour spike in cross-border fighting, which began last Monday, with Israeli strikes killing eight militants and armed groups firing more than 100 rockets across the border, seriously wounding two Thai workers.

On Sunday morning, the Israeli cabinet approved plans to provide full protection for communities within a 4.5-to-7 kilometer range (3-4.3 miles) of Gaza which are not protected by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

“We are doing this because attacks by rockets and missiles at shorter distances are much greater in the area around the Gaza Strip than at other distances,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the $70 million project.