Volleys of rockets fired from Gaza hit southern Israel

Volleys of rockets fired from Gaza hit southern Israel

JERUSALEM, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Violence across the Israel-Gaza border peaked as Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave fired volleys of rockets at southern Israel on Monday morning.

In the single largest attack of its kind in months, at least 16 rockets were launched overnight Sunday until Monday morning hours, with most exploding in open areas in the western Negev, the Israeli military said in a statement.

Three rockets fired after midnight Sunday set off air raid sirens across Israeli communities, alerting residents to take shelter, which were followed by a massive barrage of more than 10 projectiles launched Monday morning. A structure in an undisclosed community was damaged from shrapnel in the second barrage and two people were treated for shock, the Israeli police said.

Amid the escalation, the Israel Air Force has been launching retaliatory strikes, the latest targeting a militant cell east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Sunday night that was in the final stages of preparing to fire rockets.

Palestinian sources said Muhammad Zaid Abid, a member of the Palestinian militant faction Hamas, was killed and at least two others were wounded in the strike, which came shortly after several rockets were fired, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket defense system over the Israeli town of Netivot.

At the same time, militants opened fire on Israeli soldiers patrolling the southern Gaza security fence. The soldiers returned fire at a suspected gunman across the border, the army said.

On Saturday, the IAF struck a dozen targets in Gaza in retaliation to eight rockets, one of which set fire to a plastics factory in the town of Sderot. A day before, an airstrike targeted and killed two senior members of the Popular Resistance Committee, a militant group, whom the military said were involved in recent rocket attacks.

The tit-for-tat violence has spiked since the Israeli military launched massive searches in the West Bank for three Jewish teenagers who went missing on June 12 and whom Israel says were abducted by Hamas militants.