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Following mortar strikes on Israel, air force strikes Hamas targets in Gaza

Illustration: A trail of smoke is seen as a rocket is launched from the Palestinian Gaza Strip towards southern Israel on October 24, 2012
AFP
No injuries or damages reported in fourth such incident since Wednesday; two Hamas sites hit in strikes

Israeli fighter planes struck at least two Hamas targets in the southern Gaza Strip early Saturday morning, after two mortar rounds fired from the Gaza Strip struck in open areas in the Eshkol region of southern Israel, near the border fence with the Palestinian enclave, hours earlier.

"Earlier sirens sounded as a rocket was fired from #Gaza at southern #Israel. In response IAF targeted 2 #Hamas infrastructure locations," IDF spokesperson Lt Col Peter Lerner wrote on Twitter.

No injuries or damage were reported in the fourth such attack from Gaza since Wednesday.

Moments before residents reported of hearing rocket alert sirens warning of incoming projectiles were sounded throughout the region.

Three mortar shells were fired at Israeli forces engaged in operational activities near the Gaza border security fence early Friday morning, the IDF said, with no injuries or damage reported. In response, Israeli aircraft carried out strikes against a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip.

"In response to the ongoing attacks against Israeli forces, Israel Air Force aircraft targeted a Hamas terror infrastructure," an army statement said.

Palestinian witnesses said there were two sets of air raids, one targeting Beit Lahia in northern Gaza and the second in Khuzaa, southeast of Khan Yunis, in the south of the territory. There were no reports of any casualties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of the Security Council Friday morning to discuss the escalating violence.

There were no immediate official statements from the session, whose closed-door deliberations are classified.

Army spokesman Peter Lerner said on Thursday that Israel had "no interest whatsoever" in a military escalation but added that it would continue to act against Hamas as "it continues to breach Israeli sovereignty and build tunnels."

Friday's airstrikes were the fourth air raid on Gaza since Wednesday, when direct clashes between Hamas and Israeli forces broke out for the first time since 2014.

The Israeli army on Thursday announced the discovery of a new Hamas tunnel, the second such discovery in recent weeks.

Following the discovery, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned Hamas that Israel would not tolerate any attempts to disrupt the lives of its citizens.

“Terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip need to know that if they try to disrupt our lives, they will be delivered a severe blow,” he said at a service to mark the end of Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We will not tolerate a return to a routine of shooting and attempts to harm our civilians and soldiers. We will take firm action with an iron fist, as we have in the past few days, against the terrorist organizations in the Strip, led by Hamas, which is responsible for the shooting and incidents in Gaza.”

The Shin Bet security service also announced that Israel has arrested a Hamas operative who belonged to the group's military wing for a decade, and has provided information about the group's tunnel digging enterprise.

The IDF has reported at least 11 separate instances of mortar fire towards Israel in ongoing cross border fire since Tuesday.

The flare-up has raised concerns over the fate of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza, that has held since the 50-day war left more than 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead.

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