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JERUSALEM -- Israel began moving troop reinforcements to its border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, defense officials said. The movement of tanks and artillery forces came after another night of heavy rocket fire, including barrages that struck two homes in the southern border town of Sderot. Israel's last major operation in Gaza, a territory controlled by the Hamas militant group, took place in late 2012. A military spokesman said the troop movements were "defensive," adding that "there is no interest in escalating the situation."
The rocket fire comes at a time of heightened tensions following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, including an American citizen. 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. The Palestinians have meanwhile accused Israeli extremists of abducting and killing a teenage boy in a revenge attack, and stone-throwing youths clashed with Israeli police throughout the day Wednesday. Israel threatened tough action against Hamas in response to the killing of the three teens. Hamas praised their suspected abduction but denied responsibility.