Israeli jets bombed several sites in the Gaza Strip early Thursday in response to a rocket attack on a southern Israeli city, the military said.
Palestinians protest in Ramallah, demanding an end to the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and freedom for the people of Palestine Photo: AFP
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the air force strikes or from the rocket that landed in the city of Beersheba, the first time the city has been targeted since Israel's devastating 2009 Gaza offensive.
The tit-for-tat fire comes after a day of clashes along the Gaza border in which one Islamic Jihad militant was killed and 10 other people wounded.
The military said in a statement it had "targeted a terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip, in the same location where rockets were fired towards the Israeli city of Beersheva."
Later, war planes bombed several other sites across the coastal strip, which the military called "hubs of terror." It gave no further details.
Israeli television broadcast footage of a crater gouged out of a street next to a badly damaged house that was hit by a military grade Grad rocket.
Beersheva is home to about 200,000 people 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Gaza Strip. Local residents ran to shelters after warning sirens went off before the impact, witnesses said, while emergency services raised the alert level in southern Israel and braced for further attacks.
Although Wednesday's clashes were with the smaller radical Islamic Jihad, Israel said it held Gaza's Hamas rulers responsible for the violence.
The army said it held Hamas "solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it."
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Sahlom said he saw Iran's presence in the surge of violence, trying to take advantage of the turmoil sweeping the region.
"The rocket attack was a very grave act carried out by the agents of Iran, Hamas," he told public radio.
Israel carried out a massive 22-day offensive against the territory to stop rocket fire from Gaza from December 2008 to January 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.
On Wednesday, one Palestinian militant was killed and 10 other people wounded when an Israeli tank opened fire in clashes east of Gaza City, Palestinian officials said.
Two other militants were among the wounded, Islamic Jihad said in statement, adding that the tank opened fire after the gunmen fired two mortar shells towards Israeli tanks which were operating inside the (Gaza) border".
The army said said troops opened fire after coming under attack.
Islamic Jihad also said it had fired three mortars into Israel.
Also Wednesday a seven-year-old child was killed and two other people were wounded in an explosion apparently set off by accident and which also badly damaged a home in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, witnesses said.