Israel strikes Gaza Strip after Palestinians 'fire rocket'
Palestinian militants fired a rocket toward a city in southern Israel on Saturday, the Israeli military claimed, drawing Israeli air strikes after months of relative calm in the area.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza or Israel, which intercepted the rocket that was launched toward the city of Ashkelon, setting off air raid sirens and sending residents to bomb shelters.
Israel said Hamas, the Islamist militant group which controls Gaza, fired the rocket.
"In response to the rocket attack, Israel Defence Forces aircraft struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip," the Israeli military said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Hamas's political wing, Hazem Qassem, declined to comment on the Israeli allegation and referred Reuters to the group's military wing which did not immediately comment.
The Israel-Gaza frontier has been relatively calm since May 2021, when Israel launched a deadly assault on the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more.
Although Saturday's cross-border fire did not appear to signal a wider escalation, Israel has been stepping up attacks in the occupied West Bank in recent months.
On Friday, Israeli troops killed three armed Palestinianin the West Bank city of Jenin and wounded eight other Palestinians.
Dozens of Palestinians, including veteran Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, have been killed and injured in Israeli raids in the city over the pas tfew weeks.
Hamas said one of the gunmen was among its members, while another militant group that draws on members of Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad claimed the dead gunmen as its own.
Qassem said Saturday's Israeli air strikes were a "helpless attempt to end the revolutionary actions spreading across Palestine".
US-brokered peace talks aiming to establish a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza collapsed in 2014 and there is no sign of their revival.
US President Joe Biden is expected to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders during a visit to the region in July.
(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)