Hamas warns of escalation after Israel launches retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza
(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at Israel late Saturday, Israel's army said, prompting retaliatory strikes on several underground structures belonging to ruling Islamist group Hamas as tensions rose after another day of violent border clashes.
"Earlier tonight, a rocket was launched from Gaza towards Israeli territory. In response, IDF fighter jets targeted two of Hamas' underground structures in the Gaza Strip," Israel Defense Forces tweeted.
"We will continue operating to defend Israeli civilians," it added.
Hamas on Sunday morning responded to the Israeli strike in a statement saying that "a dangerous escalation and the use of fire will not bring Israel and its residents security" and that Israel will "bear the full consequences."
The rocket set off alert sirens as it landed into an open area in Israel's border area.
"Following reports of sirens sounding in the Sdot Negev and the Sha'ar HaNaegev Regional Councils, one launch was identified from the Gaza Strip towards Israel," the IDF spokesperson's office said in a statement.
There were no casualties or damage reported.
Following the rocket, head of the regional council said that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) should retaliate "with greater severity" immediately "before we enter again for a period of occasional terror, including shooting rounds, firebombs and more from the Hamas factory -- it is time to stop terror and respond."
"The time has come to act against Hamas leaders and to cancel the transfer of Qatari money, which is supposed to be transferred next week," he added referring to the next installment of aid provided from Qatar's government.
Tensions mounted following Hamas' release of details and video footage of Israel's botched special operation in the Gaza Strip on November 11, which prompted Hamas to vow revenge and sparked the deadliest flare-up between the two sides since a 2014 war.
The rocket also comes a day after a Gaza woman was shot dead by Israeli forces during weekly protests and clashes along the Gaza border.
The health ministry named her as Amal al-Taramsi, 43, saying she was the third woman to die in months of clashes that have seen at least 241 Palestinians killed.
Another 25 Palestinians were wounded along the Israeli border in Friday's violence.
The Israeli army said that around 13,000 Palestinians had gathered in multiple sites along the border.
The army also struck two positions belonging to Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas on Friday, it said.
At least once a week since March, Palestinians have taken part in often violent protests with backing from Hamas.
Most of the Palestinians killed were shot in weekly clashes, but others have been hit by tank fire or airstrikes.
Protests have calmed in recent months amid an informal truce between Israel and Hamas.
Under the unwritten agreement, Israel has allowed Qatar to provide money and fuel to Hamas's government in Gaza in exchange for relative calm.
An expected delivery of new funds by Qatar did not arrive this week, sparking speculation Israel was holding it up.
On Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza hit Israel, prompting the Jewish state to carry out a series of air strikes against Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave.
(AFP contributed to this report.)
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