IDF: Air Strike Destroys Rocket Launcher in Northern Gaza

Strike comes after IDF ground troops, Gaza gunmen exchange fire, in another violent incident to erode truce.

An Israel Air Force strike on Saturday destroyed a rocket launcher set to fire at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said.

Local residents said the launcher was set to go off remotely and no one was wounded.

Earlier on Saturday, IDF soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip, Hamas sources and Palestinian medical workers said, in the second violent incident this week to rupture the calm of a truce since June.

Palestinian ambulances rushed to the area near the town of Khan Yunis where Israeli troops had entered drawing fire from Islamist Hamas gunmen deployed in the area, medical workers and Hamas sources said.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a series of rocket attacks on Israel on Friday, on the third consecutive day of renewed rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Gaza militants pounded southern Israeli territory on Friday with nine Qassam rockets.

Two of the homemade rockets struck an open field south of Ashkelon, others struck areas in the western Negev. There were no injuries or damages reported in any of the Qassam attacks.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman said the group would consider stopping launching rockets if Israel ceased its actions.

"It depends on Israel, if they stop their aggression and abide by the truce we are ready to consider stopping firing," Abu Ahmed of the Islamic Jihad armed wing said.

Islamic Jihad said its gunmen had launched 14 rockets against Israel during the day in response to IDF operations in the area.

The rocket fire began in response to a mid-week IDF raid on the Gaza Strip that killed six Palestinian militants.

The IDF said it carried out the operation after learning Hamas was digging a tunnel between Gaza and Israel to use in an attempt to abduct soldiers.

The renewed hostilities represent the worst fighting between the IDF and Gaza militants since a cease-fire in the coastal territory took effect in June.

On Thursday, Gaza militants fired four Qassams at southern Israel.

Late Wednesday, an Israel Air Force strike targeting a Qassam firing squad in the northern Gaza Strip killed at least one Palestinian gunman. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad identified the casualty as a one of their own.

Islamic Jihad militants on Wednesday fired two rockets at the western Negev town of Sderot. One of its leaders, Khader Habib, declared the truce over.

Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers sought to contain the fallout from the fighting, but the continued flaring up of violence threatened to unravel it anew.

Neither side seems to have much to gain from a renewal of hostilities, and officials on both sides said they wanted to restore calm.

Hamas, which agreed to the Egyptian-mediated truce, said Israel was breaching it. The group also claimed responsibility for dozens of rockets fired at the western Negev on Wednesday.