The IAF has attacked Thursday a number of targets in the southern part of Gaza Strip in response to ongoing rocket fire at Israel which has seen four houses suffer direct hits.
The IDF said that the attacks' goal was to prevent additional rocket fire at Israel. Earlier in the day a security official said Israel believes Hamas is behind the rocket fire at Israel, and has begun to move forces to the south
in a bid to prepare for a possible Gaza operation.
The rocket fire comes at a time of heightened tensions following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. Israel has accused Hamas of being behind the deaths, and arrested hundreds of Hamas operatives in the West Bank as part of a broad manhunt in the largest ground operation in the West Bank in nearly a decade.
The Palestinians have meanwhile accused Israeli extremists of abducting and killing a teenage boy in east Jerusalem in a revenge attack, and stone-throwing youths clashed with Israeli police throughout the day Wednesday.
The weeks since the Israeli teens disappeared have seen militants in Gaza fire scores of rockets at Israel, which has responded with airstrikes against alleged militant targets. Two Palestinian militants were killed in an airstrike last week, and a young Palestinian girl was killed by an errant rocket attack. There have been no serious casualties on the Israeli side.
More than a dozen rockets struck Israel on Thursday, including the attacks on Sderot. The strikes knocked out electricity in part of the town but caused no injuries. Israel said it responded with overnight airstrikes on 15 Hamas targets.
At around 2 pm a rocket fired at Israel fell in an open area in the Merhavim Regional Council near the southern town of Ofakim, it was the longest reaching rocket fire in recent days. Before that, at roughly 1 pm, a rocket was fired at Sderot and Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and exploded at Sderot's industrial area.
In the morning hours rockets struck a number of residential homes in Sderot, one of which was hosting an informal community summer camp.
Three rockets exploded in populated areas in Sderot overnight Thursday, while one of them hit a student’s apartment in the city and the other exploded adjacent to an apartment building. Yet another rocket slammed into a wall of an outdoor rocket shelter, fracturing it. Some four people suffered anxiety as a result of the barrage.
In addition, two rockets from the morning barrage were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and the others landed in open areas in Sdot Negev and Bnei Shimon in the northern Negev, apart from one that hit a greenhouse in the area. A military source said Hamas is directly behind the attack.
The IAF struck rocket-launching terrorist cells in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The attack was carried out after a volley of rockets was fired on Wednesday afternoon at western Negev communities, continuing a general escalation in tensions. Direct hits were confirmed on all targets.
Reuters and Ilana Curiel contributed to this report