Israeli aircraft attacked Palestinian militants on Saturday, and the militants struck back, firing 20 rockets into southern Israeli towns, The Associated Press reports.
It was the first Israeli strike on Gaza since the return this month of a captured Israeli soldier, Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, the New York Times reports.
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According to the New York Times:
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has made efforts to enforce a cease-fire since the last round of cross-border airstrikes and rocket attacks in August that claimed casualties on both sides. The August confrontation was precipitated by a deadly attack north of Eilat in which eight Israelis died.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia said that seven people were killed and 15 injured in two separate attacks on militant targets, the AP reports.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the first strike, according to the AP. The Israeli military said that it had struck militants who were preparing to launch long-range rockets into Israel, and that the same terrorist squad had fired a rocket near Ashdod on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.
Israel said several civilians were injured in the rocket attack that followed their strike. The Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, releasing a video of a mounted multi-rocket launcher they said they used, the Jerusalem Post reports. The group is keen to show that its rocket-launching capabilities have improved over recent years, according to the Jerusalem Post.