GAZA, Palestine: The Israeli military has carried out air raids on the Gaza Strip, causing property damages and spreading panic and fear in the besieged territory.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli warplanes fired a series of missiles at positions in the western, eastern, and southern part of the strip early on Sunday, including open farmland.
Witnesses said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets in Gaza City and the southern Gaza cities of Rafah and Khan Younis, where flames and plumes of smoke could be seen rising from some sites.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility from any of Gaza’s military groups.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum blamed the new escalation on Israel.
“The Israeli occupation is the prime responsible for everything that happens in Gaza as it continues to blockade it and carry out attacks. The resistance is only acting in self-defence,” Barhoum said.
The Israel army claimed on Twitter it struck targets belonging to Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, in response to an alleged rocket attack launched from the Palestinian enclave.
It said the Israeli air force struck two rocket-manufacturing sites, a military compound, and “underground infrastructures”.
According to the army, a rocket was fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, shortly after warning sirens sounded in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
The army statement gave no further details, but Israeli media claimed said the projectile fell on open ground.
The latest reported fire from the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave came after two rockets were fired from the coastal strip into Israel in the early hours of last Sunday.
There were no casualties or damage in that attack. Israel struck back with fighter planes, helicopters and tanks, hitting what the army said were Hamas targets.
There was no claim of responsibility for the November 15 rocket fire, but Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from Gaza, including those claimed by other fighter groups based in the enclave.
The impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Egyptian-Israeli blockade since 2007, the year Hamas took over the strip.
Hamas and Israel reached an agreement at the end of September to cease hostilities, although attacks continued.
The ceasefire followed a deadly surge in violence and was to see Israel allow new development projects, including an industrial zone and a hospital.
Hamas has accused Israel of not fully complying with the deal. Israel, which deems Hamas a “terrorist” organisation, shuns direct negotiations and has never publicly acknowledged the truce.
Israel has launched three offensives against the Gaza Strip since 2008, and there have been numerous flare-ups.
Palestinian analysts say cross-border fire from Gaza is often used as a bargaining tool to secure Israel’s green light for the entry of Qatari financial aid into the territory.