Israeli jets strike 3 Hamas posts in response to rocket fire
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Israeli jets strike 3 Hamas posts in response to rocket fire

A few hours after army shelled terror group position, aircraft target additional sites; no reports of injuries on either side

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Palestinians run for cover as sand and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike on a Hamas post in the northern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2017. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Israeli aircraft targeted three Hamas sites in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon, hours after tanks shelled one of the terrorist group’s positions in the coastal enclave in response to a rocket attack earlier that morning, the army said.

Just after 9 a.m., a rocket launched from Gaza struck an open field south of the coastal city of Ashkelon, causing neither injury nor damage, the Israel Defense Forces said.

In response, an IDF tank fired shells at a Hamas position, destroying it, near the northern Gaza city of Beit Lahiya, the army said.

A few hours later, Palestinian media in the Strip reported Israeli airstrikes against Hamas sites west of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza. The army confirmed that it had carried out the strikes.

According to the Palestinian al-Quds media outlet, one of the Hamas positions hit in the airstrikes was a naval base.

The Gaza health ministry said on Twitter there were no reports of Palestinian injuries in the retaliatory strikes.

Palestinians in the Strip took to social media, posting pictures and videos of the Israeli airstrike.

The rocket strike came two days after a top explosives expert for Hamas’s armed wing was killed in a mysterious explosion.

The rocket alert sirens that sounded at 9 a.m. in Zikim and Karmiya, in the Hof Ashkelon region south of the coastal city of Ashkelon, sent residents scurrying for shelter.

Army spokesman Peter Lerner said the sirens “disrupted the daily lives of Israelis.”

“The IDF will not tolerate rocket fire toward civilians and will continue to ensure security and stability in the region,” he said in a statement.

On two occasions since the summer, Israeli forces carried out waves of dozens of strikes against Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks, a deterrent method seen as connected to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s hard-line stance toward Hamas.

No Palestinian terrorist group immediately took credit for the rocket fire, though since the 2014 Gaza war, such attacks have generally been carried out by radical salafist groups.

Regardless of which group actually launches the missile, Israel ultimately holds Hamas, which seized control of the Strip some 10 years ago, responsible.

Earlier in the morning, Palestinian media reported that four Israeli engineering vehicles had crossed the border fence and cleared the buffer zone surrounding the Gaza Strip of obstructions.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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