GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes
killed seven Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip on Monday, the Islamist
group said, in the deadliest attacks in a surge of violence exacerbated
by the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths and a Palestinian
The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted "terror sites and
concealed rocket launchers across the Gaza Strip", after about 25
projectiles were fired into Israel on Sunday.
Rocket fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza continued on Monday and one
Israeli soldier was wounded, the army said.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have risen over the
killing of three Jewish teenagers in the occupied West Bank, which
Israel has blamed on Hamas, and of a 16-year-old Palestinian in East
Israel on Sunday announced it had arrested six Jewish suspects in
the apparent revenge murder of Mohammed Abu Khudair, whose charred
body was found in Jerusalem on Wednesday, a day after Naftali
Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were
The three Jewish seminary students went missing while hitchhiking on
June 12. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied having any role in
Hamas's armed wing said six of its members were killed in air
strikes at a "resistance location" in the southern town of Rafah, at
the Egyptian border early on Monday, a possible reference to a
smuggling tunnel. It said aircraft also attacked in northern Gaza,
killing one Hamas fighter.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to his cabinet on Sunday
"to do whatever is necessary" to restore quiet to southern Israeli
communities. But he also cautioned against any rush toward wider
confrontation with Hamas, Gaza's dominant militant group, whose
arsenal includes long-range rockets that can reach Israel's
heartland and its business capital, Tel Aviv. Far-right members of
Netanyahu's cabinet and politicians in Israel's south have pushed
for a stronger response to the rocket fire that has disrupted life
for many Israelis living in the region, where air raid sirens send
them running for shelter.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, speaking after the six Hamas men
were reported killed, accused Israel of committing a "grave
escalation" in violence and threatened to retaliate, saying Israel
would "pay the price". Abu Khudair's death has touched off clashes
between police and stone-throwing Arab protesters, which continued
on Sunday night in East Jerusalem and in several Arab villages in
northern and southern Israel. Police said they arrested 30 people.
The Gaza flare-up began in mid-June, during Israel's search for the
three teens, when Israel arrested many Hamas members across the West
Bank. The Israeli military says more than 160 Gaza rockets have
struck Israel since.
In Gaza, Hamas has been reeling over an Egyptian crackdown on most
of the estimated 1,200 cross-border smuggling tunnels run by the
group, which Egypt says are used to take weapons into the Sinai
Hamas denies Egyptian allegations it backs the Muslim Brotherhood
and helps Sinai militants.
Hamas frustrations have also mounted over the failure of a new unity
government, formed under a reconciliation pact with President
Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, to pay salaries of Hamas's 40,000
public servants in the enclave. Hamas fatalities on Monday were the
highest the group has suffered in an Israeli attack since a Gaza war
in late 2012.
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew