|The Israeli army confirmed conducting the raids, saying Hamas-affiliated fighters had been targeted [AFP]|
At least 19 people, including children, have been wounded in a series of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian emergency workers said.
Witnesses and medics said Israeli jets carried out at least six air strikes late on Monday in the northern town of Beit Lahiya and Gaza City.
Witnesses said a security compound for Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a training camp north of the city and a brickworks and metal foundry in northern Gaza were among the targets.
An Israeli military spokesman said aircraft attacked a total of six targets, including two arms manufacturing facilities and two “terror tunnels” which he said were intended for staging attacks under the border fence into Israel.
He said that the raids were in response to a wave of 56 rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel since Saturday and that the military held Hamas “solely responsible for terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip and warns Hamas not to continue its aggression”.
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, had earlier said it would stop cross-border fire into Israel if the Israelis halted attacks on Gaza.
It said rocket fire into Israel on Saturday had been in response to an Israeli strike last week which killed two of its members, but the group said it was ready to call an end to the tit-for-tat violence if Israel also did so.
“If the enemy stops the escalation and aggression against our people we will implement the Palestinian national agreement,” the AFP news agency reported, citing a statement from the group.
The statement referenced a truce reaffirmed by Gaza’s main armed factions in January.
The offer, however, came with a warning attached: “The enemy will pay a heavy price if it continues its aggression and crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip.”
In a later statement, Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said the movement’s Gaza government was committed to preserving the informal truce, with the backing of other groups, AFP reported.
“The government affirms that there is consensus among the factions regarding the security situation in the Strip,” he said.
Also on Monday, Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, issued a threat against Hamas leaders.
“If Hamas decides to escalate, we will put an end to it… We have several actions before putting ground forces in Gaza, including direct threats against Hamas leaders,” Ayalon told public radio.