Israel responds to Gaza rocket fire with airstrike

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Associated Press

Posted on April 28, 2013 at 3:33 AM

Updated Sunday, Apr 28 at 4:06 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel responded to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip with airstrikes on sites used by Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, the military said on Sunday.

It said its jets struck "a terrorist weapon storage facility and a Hamas training installation" after rockets landed in southern Israel the night before. It also closed a closed a key border crossing with the territory. Gaza health officials said nobody was hurt in the strikes.

On Saturday, thousands of Israelis had been outside in parks and forests celebrating the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer with traditional bonfires. The rockets exploded in open areas and caused no injuries.

Rocket fire from Gaza has declined since a military campaign in November, before which militants were firing rockets on an almost daily basis and launching other attacks on Israeli towns across the border. Sporadic fire still persists however.

The military said it "will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians" and that it will not allow the situation to return to where it stood before the November campaign.

Israel holds Gaza's militant Hamas rulers responsible for all attacks from the territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the attack that the perpetrators will "pay a heavy price." Speaking at a government meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said he will "not allow a policy of sporadic fire" to continue. He said such fire will be met with a "very strong" response.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A shadowy extremist Muslim Salafi group has been behind recent attacks in the area, including one last month where rockets were fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Hamas sees the Salafis as a threat to its rule and routinely arrest members of the ultraconservative movement in Gaza. Salafis view even Hamas's hardline interpretation of Islamic law as too moderate and the two groups have clashed violently in the past.

Along with the airstrikes, Israel responded to Saturday's rocket fire by closing the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza. It said another terminal will be open for humanitarian cases.

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