GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Israeli military struck a series of militant sites in Gaza early Saturday in response to a rocket attack that hit a kindergarten in the Israeli border town of Sderot.
No injuries were reported on either side but damage was caused to buildings. The exchange comes amid an escalation of violence in the West Bank following a pair of fatal attacks against Jewish settlers that has sparked Israel's largest military surge in two years.
The military said its airstrikes targeted four training sites belonging to Gaza's Hamas rulers. Late Friday, a rocket from Gaza struck an empty kindergarten, marking a rare successful hit of a civilian target in Israel. Rocket attacks have been sporadic since Israel and Hamas waged a deadly 50-day war in the summer of 2014.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the rocket attack was "a horrific reminder of the intentions of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to target communities, people, men, women and children."
"Over the past two days Israeli civilians have witnessed and experienced the devastating effects of incitement-fueled terrorism based on hatred and radical beliefs," he said. "In our efforts to ensure stability, we continue to defend against those who put innocent lives in harm's way."
On Friday, a Palestinian gunman ambushed a family traveling in a car in the southern West Bank, killing an Israeli man and wounding his wife and two teenage children. The previous day a Palestinian teen stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl to death as she slept in her bedroom.
The attacks prompted Israel's military to send hundreds of troops to the area and impose a closure on the Hebron district, a flashpoint area where many of the recent attacks have stemmed from. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will reduce the amount of tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians each month, saying that some of the money was being given to families of attackers. His Cabinet will convene late Saturday to discuss further measures.
It's the latest development in nine months of violence in which Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbings, shootings and attacks using cars against civilians and security forces, killing 34 Israelis and two American tourists. Israeli troops as well as some armed civilians have killed about 200 Palestinians during this period, most said by Israel to be attackers.
Israel says the violence is fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement, compounded on social media sites that glorify and encourage attacks. Palestinians say it stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for a state.