Jerusalem (AFP) – Gaza militants fired 18 rockets at southern Israel on Monday, ending several days of calm, with the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement calling it revenge after an air raid killed one of their men.
It was the second straight day in which militants had fired rockets at Israel in a confrontation which began early on Sunday, and effectively ended three days of calm after an Egyptian-brokered truce went into force at midnight on Wednesday.
“At least 18 rockets were fired at Israeli territory, without causing injuries or damage,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, saying the count was from midnight.
Monday’s rocket fire followed hot on the heels of two late-night Israeli air strikes which did not cause any injuries, Palestinian security sources said.
Although the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades did not say how many rockets it had fired, it named at least five areas in southern Israel where it had targeted “military sites” – Sufa, Kissufim, Beeri, Yad Mordechai and Nahal Oz.
And it posted a grainy video on their website which appeared to show militants launching nine rockets in the early morning.
“This shelling was in response to the continuous Zionist bombing and terrorising of peaceful citizens, which most recently killed Suleiman Kamel Al-Qara, as well as in response to the repeated incursions and attacks carried out by the occupation,” the group said referring to one of its own militants.
The firing was the latest show of force from Hamas militants who have traditionally respected a de facto truce on firing at Israel, but who have claimed several rocket attacks in recent weeks.
The latest round of violence began early on Sunday when Israeli troops crossed the border into southern Gaza, prompting Hamas militants to begin firing mortars at them, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.
Israel then carried out an air strike which killed Qara and injured another Hamas militant.
Throughout the day, militant groups then fired seven rockets at Israel, two of which struck the southern city of Beersheva, which is home to 194,000 people, causing schools to be cancelled for the day.
Gaza’s Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for firing at Beersheva.
Late on Sunday, Israel hit back with two strikes on northern and southern Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.
“In response to the incessant rocket fire at southern Israel, IAF aircraft targeted a rocket launching site and a terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip as well as a terror activity site in the southern Gaza Strip,” the army said.
Palestinian witnesses and security sources confirmed the raids, saying one house was destroyed but no-one was injured.
Army statistics say armed groups have fired more than 160 rockets at Israel since the start of October.
The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which went into force at midnight on Wednesday, was aimed at ending 72 hours of bloodshed in which Israeli air strikes killed eight militants, and armed groups fired more than 100 rockets at Israel, severely wounding two Thai workers.
That round of violence, which began on October 22, also began when militants opened fire on troops who had crossed the border into northern Gaza, prompting several deadly air strikes.