Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza after rocket attack

Posted at 11:35 AM, Jul 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-02 14:35:23-04

The Israeli military says it struck several militant sites in Gaza early Saturday in response to a rocket attack that hit a kindergarten in the Israeli border town of Sderot.

No injuries were reported on either side but damage was caused to buildings. The exchange comes amid an escalation of violence in the West Bank following a pair of fatal attacks against Jewish settlers that has sparked Israel's largest military surge in two years.

The military said airstrikes targeted four training sites run by Gaza's militant Hamas rulers. Late Friday, a rocket from Gaza struck an empty kindergarten, marking a rare successful hit of a civilian target in Israel. Rocket attacks have been sporadic since Israel and Hamas waged a 50-day war in the summer of 2014.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the rocket attack was "a horrific reminder of the intentions of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to target communities, people, men, women and children."

"Over the past two days Israeli civilians have witnessed and experienced the devastating effects of incitement-fueled terrorism based on hatred and radical beliefs," he said. "In our efforts to ensure stability, we continue to defend against those who put innocent lives in harm's way."

On Friday, a Palestinian gunman ambushed a family traveling in a car in the southern West Bank, killing an Israeli man and wounding his wife and two teenage children. The previous day a Palestinian teen stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl to death as she slept in her bedroom in a West Bank settlement.

The attacks prompted Israel to send hundreds of troops to the area and impose a closure on the Hebron district, where many of the recent attacks have originated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will reduce the amount of tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians each month, saying that some of the money was being given to families of attackers. His Cabinet will convene late Saturday to discuss further measures.

Visiting the site of Friday's deadly shooting, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would be taking unprecedented steps to track down the killers of Miki Mark, a 48-year-old father of 10. Lieberman said the approval of 42 new housing units in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, where the 13-year-old girl was stabbed to death, would send a message that every attack would only strengthen Israeli settlements.

Over the past nine months Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbings, shootings and attacks using cars against civilians and security forces, killing 34 Israelis and two visiting Americans. Israeli troops as well as some armed civilians have killed about 200 Palestinians during this period, most said by Israel to be attackers.

Israel says the violence is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement, compounded on social media sites that glorify attacks. Palestinians say it stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for a state.