Israeli Warplanes Bomb Gaza Smuggling Tunnel

Israeli warplanes bombed a smuggling tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border early Monday in response to Palestinian rocket and mortar fire, in a brief flare-up of violence at a time of relative quiet in the volatile Palestinian territory.

Such exchanges of fire, once routine, have become rare in recent months. Rocket fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza has largely subsided since a fierce Israeli offensive against militants early this year.

There were no reports of casualties in any of the attacks.

On Sunday, Gaza militants launched mortar shells at a border crossing between Gaza and Israel just as Palestinian patients were being transferred into Israel for medical treatment, according to Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry.

Hassanain said it was a "miracle" that no one was hurt.

According to the procedure, Palestinian patients are brought to the crossing in local ambulances, transferred to Israeli ambulances and taken to hospitals inside Israel.

Two small Palestinian militant factions said they fired 12 mortars at the Erez crossing. The Israeli military said about six shells exploded near the crossing as the transfer was in progress.

The military said Monday's airstrike came in response to the renewed militant fire and targeted a smuggling tunnel running underground between Egypt and Gaza.

Gaza has been subject to a blockade by Egypt and Israel since Hamas seized power in the territory two years ago, with Israel allowing in only vital supplies. Gazan smugglers use the tunnels to bring in everything from gas to livestock, clothes and weapons.