JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired at least 20 rockets into Israel on Wednesday, the Israeli military said, in the heaviest such barrage in two years.
The rocket fire, which police said caused no casualties, was claimed by the Islamic Jihad group and came a day after Israel killed three of its members in a Gaza air strike.
Police said “a number of waves of rockets” had hit southern Israel. The military said in a statement that two rockets had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
“It’s a barrage such as we haven’t seen for two years,” Haim Yellin, a local municipal official in the south, told Army Radio, referring to an eight-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in November 2012.
Sirens sounded in several communities across southern Israel to alert residents to take shelter and general warnings were given urging everyone in the area to remain indoors.
“It appears as though the waves of rockets have come in response to our preventive operations of yesterday,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
“We shall continue to thwart and attack those who seek to attack us, and shall act against them with great force.”
Describing the incident on Tuesday in which three Islamic Jihad militants were killed, the military said they were targeted after they fired mortar bombs at Israeli soldiers.
Islamic Jihad said at the time that its men had died confronting Israeli troops who had entered the Gaza Strip.
Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of the territory, now run by Hamas Islamists, in 2005. But it maintains a naval and air blockade and severely restricts the overland movement of people and goods across the volatile border.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Alistair Lyon)