Palestinian rocket strikes Israel; Retaliation includes airstrikes

Published 9:59 am Monday, August 22, 2016

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military carried out a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late Sunday, targeting Hamas positions in response to a Palestinian rocket attack that hit an Israeli border town earlier in the day.

Palestinian Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Qidra said two Palestinians, including a 17-year-old boy, were lightly wounded.

Palestinian officials said nearly all of the airstrikes took place in northern Gaza, near the Israeli border. While most of the attacks targeted Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, one struck a military camp used by the smaller Islamic Jihad group.

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Lt. Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the operation was meant “to bring quiet to the people of southern Israel.” He accused Hamas of trying to “inflict pain, cause fear and to terrorize” Israelis in the middle of the summer vacation period.

Sunday’s rocket attack struck the Israeli border town of Sderot in the middle of the day and disrupted what has been a quiet summer in the volatile area. The rocket landed in a residential area, exploding next to a house. There were no injuries.

Israel responded quickly with airstrikes and tank fire, and then carried out a second round of airstrikes shortly before midnight.

Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in the summer of 2014. Since then, a cease-fire has largely held. But militants in Gaza occasionally launch rockets toward Israel. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory. Despite Sunday’s flareup, neither side appears to be interested in an escalation.

In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, hundreds of masked Hamas militants held a parade to mark the anniversary of the deaths of three senior members killed during the 2014 war. The camouflaged fighters displayed rockets, guns and other weapons as they marched.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the group’s military wing, said Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, would continue its struggle against Israel until “victory is achieved.”