October 05, 2016 - 12:07 PM
JERUSALEM - Israel carried out airstrikes on Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip after a rocket fired from the Palestinian territory landed in a street in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday, the Israeli military said.
Tall plumes of smoke from the Israeli strikes rose up from Gaza following the rare series of airstrikes during daylight. There were at least nine Israeli airstrikes on Hamas posts and open spaces throughout the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses, but there were no reports of injuries.
In Israel, no one was wounded by the rocket fire, but it marked an unusual incident of rocket fire penetrating Israel's aerial defence system. Only a handful of projectiles have struck the previously battered town since the conclusion of a 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants in the summer of 2014. Sirens wailed in Sderot warning of the incoming rocket, which landed near a school.
A small Islamic group that says it is inspired by, but not officially connected to, the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the rocket launch via a statement posted on its Twitter account. The claim could not be independently verified and the group, which calls itself Grandsons of the Companions, is not known to have carried out any previous attacks.
Since the 2014 war, a cease-fire has largely held. But militants in Gaza occasionally launch rockets toward Israel. Israel holds Gaza's Hamas rulers responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the rocket fire was "the direct result of Hamas' terror agenda in the Gaza Strip that encourages deliberate attacks against Israeli civilians."
"We condemn the Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip," Hamas said in a statement. "We can't stand idle if it continues."
Also Wednesday, an Israeli air force pilot was killed during a plane crash at an Israeli air force base in southern Israel, the military said.
The circumstances of the crash were unclear. According to the military, the pilot and his navigator were landing at the base when they ejected from their F-16I jet. The pilot was killed as a result and his navigator was lightly wounded.
The army declined to comment on the cause of the crash, and would not say whether the pilot had participated in the airstrikes in Gaza. It said the incident was under review.
Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip contributed to this report.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016