An Israeli air strike killed four Palestinian militants who were preparing to launch a rocket from Gaza on Tuesday, Hamas officials said. Four Palestinians were killed earlier in the day when Israel Defense Forces returned fire towards a target in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces released a statement saying that the air force had fired on a group of terrorists in the northern part of the Strip that were about to launch a Grad rocket at Israel. Israel has stepped up strikes against Gaza militants in response to a surge in rocket and mortar fire at Israel in the past few days.

The IDF said Palestinian militants had launched mortars against Israeli troops earlier on Tuesday and the military shot mortars at the source of the firing.

Palestinian medics said the dead youths from the first attack were aged 12, 16 and 17. The 58-year-old owner of the house was also killed.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an IDF spokeswoman, said the army did not know that civilians were in the area at the time of the strike and stressed that Israel had no desire to raise tensions and hoped that Hamas also didn't have that intention. "We never operate when civilians are identified," she said.

Locals said four Israeli tank shells struck the building east of Gaza City.
Israel hit a series of Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip earlier Tuesday, damaging smuggling tunnels and suspected weapons sites.

Palestinian officials said 19 people were wounded in those attacks.

On Saturday, southern Israel was hit by over 50 rockets, of which Hamas claimed responsibility for 10. The Israeli Air Force struck Gaza targets in retaliation for the bombardment.

On Monday, an IAF fighter jet struck a Gaza tunnel running along the border with Israel, as well as Hamas militants in the northern Gaza strip, an IDF statement confirmed.

The IDF spokesperson's office released a statement saying that the Gaza tunnel was used to smuggle terrorists into Israeli territory with the intent to execute attacks against Israeli citizens.