Israel hits Gaza after rockets for first time since November


JERUSALEM — Gaza Strip militants fired rockets for the second time in less than 24 hours, as Israeli forces vowed to defend residents and carried out the first air strikes on the Hamas-ruled territory since a November offensive there.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the rockets fired today landed in an open area, causing no injuries or damage. A rocket fired at southern Israel Tuesday evening also landed in an open area.

“We will in no way permit a routine trickling of rockets toward our civilians and forces,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said in an emailed statement that held Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the territory.

The violence is the most serious since Egypt brokered a November cease-fire after eight days of violence in which 167 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. Israel was hit by more than 1,400 missiles during the November fighting. Hamas, which rules Gaza, is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and European Union.

Israeli aircraft struck unidentified targets in Gaza overnight in response to Tuesday’s rocket fire, the military said in a release.

Witnesses and medical personnel in Gaza said the aircraft hit empty areas and no injuries were reported. There were no claims of responsibility for the recent rocket fire.

Robert Serry, the United Nations’ Mideast envoy, expressed concern that the Nov. 21 cease-fire might be unraveling. “The United Nations condemns the indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas and calls on Israel to act with restraint,” Serry said in an email.

In all, rocket squads have attacked Israel four times since the November offensive, the Israeli military said.

“Since none of the major militant groups have claimed responsibility, the Israeli response will be restrained and this is unlikely to escalate,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. “But it is worrying that the deterrent impact of November’s operation seems to be fading already.”

The attacks from Gaza coincide with recent rounds of fire from Syria at the Israeli-held Golan Heights. The Israel army hit two targets in Syria Tuesday that it said were sources of fire at Israeli positions in the southern Golan.

Ya’alon warned in his statement today that Israel would “respond firmly” to gunfire from Syria, be it stray or intentional.

“The moment we identify the source of fire we will destroy it without hesitation, as we did yesterday and have done in previous cases,” he said. “We regard the regime in Syria as responsible for everything that emanates from its territory, and we will not let gunfire spill over into Israeli territory without responding.”

Israel captured the plateau from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized.



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