Smoke trails of rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza Strip.
Smoke trails of rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza Strip towards Israel (archive photo). Photo by AP
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An Israel Air Force craft struck a Palestinian rocket launching pad and two militant activity sites in the Gaza Strip on Monday, in response to persistent rocket and mortar fire from the coastal territory.

The Israel Defense Forces said the strikes came after Gaza militants fired some 15 rockets and mortars into southern Israel overnight. Two more rockets struck Israel shortly after the attack on Gaza.

Palestinian witnesses said an unoccupied building under construction was destroyed in central Gaza, east of al-Bureij refugee camp near the border with Israel. An empty field was also hit on Gaza City's southern outskirts, as was a training post of the Islamist Hamas movement in southern Gaza, east of Khan Younis.

Residents in the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip have been asked to stay within a 15-second distance from a secure shelter. The school day opened as scheduled across the region.

Twelve of the rockets were fired toward the Eshkol Regional Council, striking open areas, while the rest exploded in Sha'ar Hanegev. Hamas' military wing claimed responsibility for the rockets.

The hostilities undercut a brittle, informal truce that went into effect last week after the worst outbreak of violence between the two sides in months. Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesman of the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, said that since the latest round of violence erupted on October 22, Israel has killed nine Palestinian militants and wounded 14 others.

Israel said Gaza armed groups have launched more than 615 rockets and mortar shells at it this year.

Schools were canceled in Be’er Sheva on Sunday, following the overnight striking of two Grad rockets in open areas near the city. No casualties or damage were reported. The pro-Hamas Popular Resistance Committees said its militants fired the Grad missiles.

A few hours before that, two Qassam rockets hit an open field near Eshkol Regional Council. No casualties were reported there either.

In response to the Qassam fire on Sunday, the Israeli Air Force attacked a target in central Gaza. According to a statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the airstrike was aimed at a squad of terrorists attempting to launch rockets into Israeli territory. The statement said the attack hit its target and resulted in a secondary explosion – most likely due to the presence of explosive materials at the scene.

Palestinian officials confirmed the attack, claiming that its target was two Hamas militants riding on a motorcycle. According to the officials, one of the militants was killed on the spot and the other was wounded and taken to a Gaza hospital.

The IDF statement also indicated Hamas as the source of rocket fire from within the Gaza Strip.