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Israel

Gaza rocket barrage prompts Israeli retaliation

The Israeli government hit back at Gaza militants who fired more than 30 rockets into southern Israel without causing casualties. Visiting British premier David Cameron condemned the barrage.

Islamic Jihad militants claimed responsibility for Wednesday's rocket fire from Gaza. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Jewish state had "no alternative" but to re-occupy the "entire Gaza Strip."

He made his remark to the private Israeli Channel 2 television. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoided a reoccupation threat but said his country would act against those who launched the rockets "with great force."

"We will continue to foil and hurt those who want to hurt us," Netanyahu said in a social network message.

Israel responds with shelling, bombings

The Israeli military said its artillery and tanks stationed on the Gaza border replied by shelling at least two launching sites in Gaza. It also bombed 29 targets in the Gaza Strip.

Visiting Jerusalem, Britain's Cameron said the rocket attacks were "completely indiscriminate." Referring to lengthy diplomatic efforts to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he said "there is no violent route to statehood."

Largest in two years

Wednesday's rocket barrage from Gaza was the largest since 2012, said Israel's military, referring to an eight-day offensive against Gaza militants four years ago that claimed the lives of 177 Palestinians and six Israelis.

The Islamic Jihad said Wednesday it had fired the rockets to avenge an Israeli airstrike that killed three of its fighters on Tuesday.

One rocket landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, but caused not injuries, said Israeli officials, adding that eight rockets had impacted in built-up areas. The others fell in open areas.

Residents were told to shelter indoors. Of some 30 rockets fired, three were intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" missile system, said Israel's military.

Border crossing closed

Palestinian officials said Israel also responded to the attack by closing indefinitely the Kerem Shalom border crossing for freight.

In 2005, Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza, which is now run by Hamas Islamists. Israel has since maintained a naval and air blockade.

Last week, Israeli special forces captured a ship in the Red Sea that was carrying rockets and other weapons that Israel claims were supplied by Iran and destined for Gaza.

ipj/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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