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Israeli aircraft strike Gaza sites linked to Hamas after militants fire rockets

June 02. 2018 10:14PM

JERUSALEM/GAZA ­- Gaza militants fired rockets at Israel on Saturday, the Israeli military said, drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes on Hamas sites, Palestinian residents said, a few days after the area's most intense fighting in years.

"Two launches were identified from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory. The IDF's Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted one of the launches and the other apparently landed in the Gaza Strip," a statement from the military said.

None of Gaza's militant groups claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

Hours later, residents in Gaza said Israeli aircraft struck at least three training camps belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the enclave.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in any of the incidents.

Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza reached a de facto cease-fire this week after the most intense flare-up of hostilities since a 2014 war, both sides signaling they did not want a wider escalation.

Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel throughout Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, to which Israel responded with tank fire and airstrikes on more than 50 targets in the small, coastal enclave.

Violence along the Israel-Gaza frontier has surged in recent weeks. At least 119 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border that began on March 30.

Israel, which has drawn international condemnation for its use of deadly force, says many of those killed were Hamas members and militants trying to launch attacks under cover of the protests.

The Palestinians say most of the dead and the thousands wounded were unarmed civilians against whom Israel was using excessive force.

More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but citing security concerns, maintains tight control of its land and sea borders, which has reduced Gaza's economy to a state of collapse.

Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

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