ISRAEL’s military hit a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip in its first air strike on the Palestinian territory since the summer’s war.
The Israeli military said the strike on what it called a “Hamas terror infrastructure site” in southern Gaza was in response to a rocket fired earlier on Friday from Gaza into southern Israel.
No-one was injured by the rocket.
Palestinian residents reported hearing two blasts in the Khan Yunis region of Gaza city, in an area that contains training sites for Palestinian militants. No injuries were immediately reported.
Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said Israel’s military “will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardise the wellbeing of the civilians of Israel.
“The Hamas terrorist organisation is responsible and accountable for [the] attack against Israel”.
The Gaza rocket attack and Israeli retaliation came days after a European Union court ordered that Hamas be removed from its terrorist list for procedural reasons, but said assets belonging to Hamas members could remain frozen for now. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was “a murderous terror organisation” and called for the EU to reinstate Hamas on the list.
Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, fought a 50-day war this summer, during which Hamas launched thousands of rockets and mortars at Israel, which responded with air strikes and a ground invasion.
The war left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead, according to Palestinian and United Nations officials. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
The fighting was ended by an Egyptian-brokered truce on 26 August.
In the West Bank yesterday, fierce clashes erupted between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces at a military checkpoint and near the village of Turmus Aya, though no injuries were reported.
The village was the site of a Palestinian-Israeli scuffle earlier this month during which Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ain collapsed and later died while being taken to hospital.
Palestinian and Israeli pathologists subsequently disagreed over the cause of his death. The Palestinian expert said it was a “blow”, while his Israeli counterpart said he died of a heart attack.
In other developments, the Israeli military began relaxing travel restrictions for Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Christmas, saying it granted 700 permits for Gazans to travel to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Israel said it was also allowing 500 West Bank Christians to visit their families in the Gaza Strip, subject to security checks.
Israel restricts Palestinians in the two territories from entering the country without special permits, citing security concerns. Travel between the territories is also restricted but those bans are usually relaxed for Christians during the festive season.
The army also said it would expand the working hours at military checkpoints to allow pilgrims from around the world faster access to the West Bank city of Bethlehem during Christmas.
Two prior instances of militant rockets landing in Israel have been recorded but there was no retaliation to them.
In a separate incident on Friday, four Palestinian protesters were shot in the legs by Israeli troops after they ignored warnings to keep away from the border fence between the coastal territory and the Jewish state, the military and Gaza medical officials said.