Israel launches airstrike after attacks from Gaza

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JERUSALEM -- Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli territory Monday, causing no casualties but some property damage, after an Israeli airstrike Sunday in southern Gaza killed one Palestinian and wounded at least nine others.

Israeli warplanes responded immediately, striking a number of rocket-launching squads as they fired toward Israel, according to the military, and hitting several facilities belonging to Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza. The military said the sites were being used to store weapons.

Ashraf al-Qedra, a Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said five Palestinians were injured in Monday's strikes, one of them seriously.

The latest flare-up began with the missile strike Sunday against two men who Israel said were members of jihadist groups involved in terrorist activity against Israel. Some Palestinian news outlets identified them as radical Salafi militants. Gaza medical officials said the two, who were struck while riding on a motorcycle, were critically wounded, and that one later died. They said at least eight passers-by were also injured in the strike.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said as many as 30 mortar shells had fallen inside Israel on Monday morning, and the military said a number of rockets also struck Israeli territory near the Gaza border.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group, claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar fire, saying they were aiming at Israeli military bases near the border.

A Hamas military wing spokesman, known only by his nom de guerre, Abu Obeida, said Monday's attacks were meant as "a message" that "the Palestinian resistance will not allow unilateral aggression" from Israel. He warned of "stronger, expanded responses" if the Israeli raids continued.

Most of the rockets and mortars fell in uninhabited areas in Israel, but the military said some buildings were damaged. Several goats were killed in a petting zoo in an Israeli communal farm near the border, the news website Ynet said.

Israelis were marking the last day of the Sukkot holiday Monday, and schools and offices were closed. Israelis near the Gaza border were advised to remain close to bomb shelters and protected areas.

The Education Ministry in Gaza said four schools in southeast Gaza were evacuated because of Israeli shelling.

Hamas has largely adhered to an informal, if fragile, cease-fire with Israel and has acted in the past to rein in smaller groups, but this was the second time in less than four months that Hamas joined in firing rockets at Israel. In June, the armed wing of Hamas joined Islamic Jihad in firing barrages of rockets into Israel after a number of deadly Israeli airstrikes. Analysts said then that Hamas was acting out of a sense that Islamic Jihad was gaining ground, and after Gaza residents criticized Hamas for not avenging Israeli strikes.

Then, three days of cross-border fighting ended when Egypt brokered a restoration of the cease-fire, and Hamas renewed its commitment to the truce.

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