GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territory (AFP) — Gaza's ruling Hamas movement and the Islamic Jihad group yesterday fired a barrage of projectiles at Israel, a day after a targeted Israeli air strike on the Palestinian enclave.
"In response to the injury of civilians in the most recent strike on Rafah, the Qassam Brigades and the Al-Quds Brigades fired a number of rockets at enemy military positions," Hamas's Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades armed wing said, teaming up with the Al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad.
"This blessed operation came in response to continuous and repeated enemy crimes against our defenceless people," it said, in what was the first time since June that Hamas has
taken responsibility for rockets fired into Israel.
"The launches this morning are a message to the Zionist enemy that resistance will not restrain itself in the face of any unilateral aggression by the occupation (Israel)," said Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Qassam Brigades.
Abu Obeida noted the "high degree of coordination" between the armed factions in the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP that 23 rockets and mortars hit southern Israel yesterday, causing light damages to electric cables and a number of structures, including a home and a sheep pen, but resulting in no injuries.
"Most of the projectiles were fired at communities in the vicinity of the town Ofakim, primarily the Eshkol region," she told AFP.
Residents of Israel's south were instructed to remain near bomb shelters on Monday, the last day of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles.
The army launched an attack on Gaza following the barrage, and Gaza's health ministry said tank shelling east of Khan Yunis had injured five people, including one left in serious condition.
The Israeli military confirmed
"In response to this morning's rocket barrage... the Israeli army targeted Hamas terror activity sites and terrorist squads responsible for the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip," a statement read.
In addition, the minarets of two mosques in Gaza near the border with Israel were hit by gunfire, witnesses said.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed targeting the mosques, telling AFP the army had fired at a Hamas position in a southern Gaza Strip mosque.
The latest escalation came after an Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza city of Rafah late on Sunday.
The attack targeted two men belonging to Salafist militant groups, the Israeli military said, accusing the men of being involved in planning attacks on Israelis.