Witnesses and Hamas officials said that Israeli missiles hit two caravans near the town of Khan Younis and a cheese factory, while helicopters attacked a metal foundry in the Nusseirat refugee camp.

'Rocket fire response'   

The Israeli military said it had targeted weapons manufacturing and storage facilities in the central Gaza Strip, in Gaza City in the north and the southern Gaza Strip, all in response to rockets fired from the territory.

in depth

"Nearly 20 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip during March, killing one man in the community of Netiv Ha'Asara and doubling the number of rockets fired this year," a statement from the Israeli army said. 
 
"The IDF [Israeli military] will not tolerate any attempt to harm the citizens of the State of Israel and will continue to operate firmly against anyone who uses terror against it. The IDF holds Hamas as solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said the rocket attack came despite a warning earlier in the day by the Israeli military that it would "respond harshly against any attempt to disrupt the calm in Israel's southern communities".

 

There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday's lone rocket, which caused no casualties, but the Israeli army had said in its earlier statement that it held Hamas, the Palestinian faction which controls Gaza, "solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in and around" the territory.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera that Hamas held the Israeli government led by Binyamin Netanyahu responsible for the "escalation", but said the air raids had been expected because of threats by Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and other ministers.

He also blamed "the international community and the Arabs" for failing "to do anything about the situation in Gaza".

"The absence of the international community and the Arabs has allowed the Israelis to escalate the situation," he said.