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Hamas Steps Up Rocket Fire, Israel Says Ready for Escalation

Hamas stepped up rocket fire at southern Israeli towns and Israel called up reserve troops on Monday in anticipation of a possible escalation of hostilities with the Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip.

The armed wing of the Palestinian group said it fired dozens of rockets within about an hour, after hundreds since mid-June. Israel said more than 40 rockets were launched as militants' funerals were held in Gaza. Thirty struck inside Israel and the rest were shot down by rocket interceptors, the army said.

Hamas has vowed revenge for what it saw as Israel's deadliest attacks in which six Palestinian militants died, though Israel denied any involvement. The surge in violence has raged since the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths last month and a Palestinian teen last week.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said the rocket fire at Israel from Gaza by Hamas fighters meant that "now the Israeli military is talking about preparedness for an escalation". It had called up several hundred reservists and was prepared to mobilise a total of 1,500.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged "to do whatever is necessary" to restore quiet to southern Israeli communities but cautioned against any rush toward wider confrontation with Hamas.

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- Reuters