Israel launched a series of air strikes on Gaza early on Monday to quell Hamas rocket fire, and the Islamist group's armed wing said seven of its gunmen were killed, making it the deadliest day for Hamas since a 2012 cross-border war with the Jewish state. Israeli military authorities confirmed the strikes, saying they "responded to rocket attacks against southern Israel," targeting 9 "terror" sites and concealed rocket launchers. They said the attacks had made "direct hits." Hamas said most of the strikes were launched at a gathering point for its members in Gaza's southern-most town of Rafah, at the Egyptian border. Another strike was launched in northern Gaza, it said.
Seven Hamas fighters were killed and four people were wounded in the attacks, the group's armed wing said in a statement. The attacks followed a surge in rocket strikes at Israel from Gaza, where Hamas is the dominant force. The Israeli military said these attacks have topped 150 since mid-June, including 25 rockets striking Israel on Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to his cabinet on Sunday "to do whatever is necessary" to restore quiet to southern Israeli communities. Netanyahu also cautioned against any rush toward wider confrontation with the group, whose arsenal includes long-range rockets that can reach Israel's heartland and its business capital, Tel Aviv.
Tensions have also spiked over the kidnap and slayings of three Israeli teens, attacks Israel has blamed on Hamas. The teens' bodies were found last month near the West Bank city of Hebron, a Hamas stronghold. Hamas has not claimed responsibility for these killings.
First published July 6 2014, 5:27 PM