At least 14 wounded in IAF missile strike on Gaza
Israel retaliates after pro-al-Qaida militants fire five Qassam rockets in 24 hours, killing a Thai worker.
Israeli F16 warplanes carried out two successive airstrikes on the southern Gaza Strip on Friday night, wounding at least 14 people, in response to earlier rocket attacks, witnesses and medics said.
The witnesses said Israeli warplanes targeted the inoperative Gaza airport east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. After a short while, Israeli warplanes struck two smuggling tunnels under the Gaza Strip-Egypt borders.
Friday's airstrikes came after militants fired five rockets at Israel in 24 hours, one of them killing a Thai worker near the southern city of Ashkelon.
Medics at Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah town said that at least 12 Palestinians were injured, two of them seriously, in the second airstrike that targeted the two tunnels.
Both Israeli and Hamas officials confirmed the strikes.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom had said on Thursday Israel would make a strong response to what was the first deadly rocket fire from Hamas-ruled Gaza at Israel in more than a year.
Israel also sent a letter of complaint to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is due to visit Israel at the weekend, and the UN Security Council.
Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev urged Ban to call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in 2006. Hamas has demanded Israel free hundreds of the thousands of militants in its jails in exchange for the soldier.
A previously unknown group, Ansar al-Sunna, believed to share the hardline ideology of al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire at Israel, as well as the Al-Aqsa Martrys Brigades, a wing of the mainstream Fatah movement.
Gaza airport was built in 1999 with German and Spanish donations as well as loans from Arab Bank in Egypt but became inoperative after the Palestinian Intifada erupted against Israel in September 2000.
Since then, Israeli warplanes and tanks have destroyed many of the airport buildings as well as the runway, with most of the damage inflicted during last winter's 22-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Earlier on Friday in the predawn hours, Israeli planes carried out six successive airstrikes on different targets in the Gaza Strip, including a metal workshop in Gaza City and smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza Strip.
Hamas Islamists, who took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, had been urging other militant groups not to strike Israel, voicing concern about possible Israeli retaliation.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have carried out sporadic rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel since the end of a three-week Gaza war in January 2009, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed, usually without causing any casualties.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said that more than 330 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the war. "We will continue to act against anyone who executes terror attacks against Israel," he said, reading a prepared statement.
Israel has responded to rocket fire from Gaza since the war last year. But air strikes are often tempered to avoid casualties, as a signal to Hamas that Israel holds it responsible while remaining aware that it is not behind the rocket fire, and to avoid the appearance of disrupting U.S.-backed diplomacy in the region.
The latest air strikes took place the day of a meeting of Quartet Middle East power mediators in Moscow and just before a planned visit by U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who is seeking to relaunch moribund peace talks in the region.