JERUSALEM (AFP) – Dozens of rockets were fired at Israel on Wednesday after Israeli military operations in Gaza killed six Palestinians, in the most serious incidents since a fragile truce went into effect in June.
There was no immediate report of casualties after the rockets were fired from the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.
“Thirty-five rockets were fired this morning from the Gaza Strip against southern Israel,” a military spokeswoman told AFP.
“During the night another 19 rockets were fired at Israel,” she said.
A Palestinian identified as a Hamas fighter was killed and three other militants were wounded on Tuesday night in a shootout with Israeli troops, according to Palestinian medics.
Four Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded in the firefight, the army said.
Five Palestinians were later killed in Israeli air raids near the towns of Dir al-Balah and Al-Bureij.
The Israeli military said the air raids targeted armed groups firing mortars.
“There is no intention to disrupt the ceasefire, rather the purpose of the operation was to remove an immediate and dangerous threat posed by the Hamas terror organisation,” the army said.
It said the military intervened after discovering a tunnel that was to be used to abduct Israeli soldiers.
A military spokesman called the tunnel a serious violation of the truce by Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since it ousted forces loyal to secular Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in June 2007.
“A unit of paratroopers, backed by sappers and the airforce intervened in the Gaza Strip near the security barrier,” after the tunnel was detected 250 metres (yards) from the border,” the spokesman said.
“During the operation, armed terrorists inside the structure opened fire at the IDF (military) forces. The forces returned fire and identified positively hitting a number of them,” he said.
At least 545 people — nearly all of them Palestinians — have been killed since Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were revived at an international conference in Annapolis, near Washington, in November 2007, according to an AFP tally.
There had been several incidents of isolated mortar and rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip since the truce in and around the territory went into effect in June.
Israel has responded to those attacks by temporarily closing its crossings with Gaza through which badly-needed foodstuff and supplies are imported into the impoverished territory.
Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in the territory of 1.5 million people.