Israeli warplanes raid militants in Gaza after rocket attacks

Updated: 2014-03-13 15:36


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GAZA/JERUSALEM - Israeli warplanes on Wednesday night raided the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket attacks by Islamic Jihad militants, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

Hamas security officials told Xinhua that despite the bad weather, Israeli warplanes fired several missiles at military camps belonging to Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip. No casualties have been reported yet.

The Israeli military's top generals were convened in an emergency meeting on Wednesday night in the wake of massive rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.

Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Southern Command chief Sammy Turgeman and head of military intelligence Aviv Kochavi assembled at the military headquarters in Tel Aviv to weigh possible responses to the heaviest barrage of rockets fired from Gaza since 2012.

The Israeli military released a statement on Wednesday night, saying it launched airstrikes on 29 militant targets in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation to massive rocket fire from the coastal enclave into southern Israel earlier in the day.

"Direct hits on the targets were confirmed," the military said in the statement. It did not detail the targets that were struck.

The statement said 41 rockets were fired at Israel, five of which landed in populated areas, and three projectiles were shot down by the Iron Dome system. It noted that Wednesday's rocket attack was the "most substantial" since November 2012.

"The retaliation was precise and prompt. We targeted the infrastructure that serves the terrorists while they train, plan and implement their hideous attacks," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

"They will not be permitted to conspire in the safety of their terrorist temples," he added.

Hamas security officials said that Israeli warplanes fired about 16 missiles in five rounds of airstrike against military camps belonging to Hamas and Jihad across the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that ambulances and firefighters had rushed to the targeted areas.

The Islamic Jihad armed wing claimed responsibility for launching rocket attacks from the coastal enclave into southern Israel on Wednesday afternoon.

The group said that the attack was in revenge for the killing of its three members in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah town in southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

Hamas started to evacuate its staff from its camps and buildings in the enclave, fearing further Israeli retaliation. People in the Gaza Strip rushed to bakeries and gas stations to buy food and fuel in fear of a large-scale Israeli operation.

The growing escalation between Israel and Gaza militants may ruin an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal reached between Israel and Hamas in 2012 that ended an eight-day war.

Earlier, the Israeli army said it struck two sites in southern and northern Gaza in retaliation, and tanks were reportedly taking up positions along the border preparing to enter the coastal enclave.

"It appears that these rocket salvos come in response to our preventative actions yesterday," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference held with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, referring to an airstrike in southern Gaza on Tuesday.