Explosions were heard in the Gaza Strip early on Friday andPalestinianwitnesses said Israeli planes bombed Hamas security positions.
About 30 raids targeted positions held by the military wing ofHamasand its ally Islamic Jihad, causing significant damage, a Gaza Palestinian security source told AFP news agency.
Local Palestinian agencies reported that a woman and her husband were both injured in the southern city of Rafah, but did not provide further details.
The Israeli military said it was attacking “terror sites” in Gaza, hours after it said two rockets were launched from the enclave at the Tel Aviv area. In atweet, the Israeli army said it had targeted 100 “Hamas military targets”.
The air attacks were taking place in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, about 25km south of Gaza City.
The rockets triggered air raid sirens across the city – about 80km north of Gaza – which is Israel’s densely populated commercial and cultural capital.
Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and witnesses said Iron Dome interceptor missiles were fired skyward and detonated – although the military said no rockets were shot down.
“I heard the rocket and I heard the siren going off. It was a bit surprising, I didn’t think that, you know, it could really reach Tel Aviv,” said resident Yonah Zeff.
Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett called fordemilitarisationof Hamas.
“It’s time to defeat Hamas. It’s time to act unilaterally and demilitarise Hamas in order to defend Israeli citizens,” said Bennett.
Warplanes could be heard flying overhead in Gaza City, where smoke from the explosions could be seen in the distance.
Vow to take action
Hamas denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group’s military wing was meeting with Egyptian mediators to try to strengthen a ceasefire with Israel.
In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the interior ministry said the rocket fire went “against the national consensus” and promised to take action against the perpetrators.
Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, two smaller Gaza armed factions, also denied responsibility.
Speaking to Palestinian news agency Quds Network, a spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad responded to Israel’s claims.
“These accusations are mere lies by the Israeli occupation,” Daoud Shihab said. “Our movement and its military wing the Al-Quds Brigades did not fire any rockets.”
Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis, the Israeli army’s chief spokesman, said officials had no prior warning of the attack and were trying to determine who fired the rockets.
Israel holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for any firing from the territory.
The rocket salvo caused no damage or casualties, but it rattled Israeli nerves ahead of an April 9 election in which Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahuis seeking a fifth term.
Netanyahu rushed to the military headquarters in Tel Aviv and was conferring with senior army officials.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said he had ordered the city to open public air raid shelters as a protective measure. But he said there were no special instructions and encouraged residents to stick to their daily routines.
“Continue life as usual,” he told Channel 10 TV. “Be calm, but be alert.”
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Hamas possesses a big arsenal of rockets and missiles, but it has sought to contain violence with Israel since the last war in 2014.
Tensions have been high for the past year along the Israel-Gaza frontier since Palestinians began popular protests near Israel’s fence west of the Gaza Strip. The response from the Israeli military has often been lethal, with around 200 Palestinians killed in the demonstrations.
About 60 more Palestinians have died in other incidents, including exchanges of fire across the border. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed by Palestinian fire.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES