Israel strikes Hamas bases in Gaza amid flare-up fears
Israeli aircraft struck the beseiged Gaza Strip in the early hours of Friday, its military said, after a rocket fired by Gaza-based militants hit a Jewish theological seminary in southern Israel.
"Last night, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory," Friday's military statement said.
It said that in response the Israeli Air Force "fighter jets and aircraft targeted terror infrastructure in military compounds and a Hamas naval force military compound as part of a strike on a number of Hamas terror sites throughout the Gaza Strip."
It is unclear who sent the rockets into Israel, but Israeli warplanes hit Hamas bases in the beseiged enclave to retaliate.
The Israeli army asserted it "holds Hamas responsible for all events transpiring within the Gaza Strip and emanating from it", regardless as to whether Hamas have carried out the attack or not.
Firing at seminary
The seminary, in the town of Sderot, was empty at the time of the rocket attack as students had left to return to their homes elsewhere to celebrate the Jewish sabbath - which begins on Friday- with their families.
"If the rocket had hit a few hours earlier there would have been a disaster," former defence minister Amir Peretz, a Sderot resident, said in an interview Friday with Israeli public radio.
Israeli police said the building was damaged when it was hit "with full force".
There were no reported casualties on either side.
The Sderot incident came hours after Israeli warplanes bombed bunkers at a Hamas base in southern Gaza on Thursday, according to a Palestinian security source.
That strike came after Israeli air defences intercepted a previous rocket launched from Gaza, the first since hundreds were fired from the enclave in early May in a flare-up which killed 25 Palestinians and four Israelis.
Israeli authorities on Wednesday announced a ban on fishing off Gaza, in response to the launching of balloons, fitted with incendiary devices, into Israeli territory to set fire to farmland.
"Due to the continuous launching of incendiary balloons and kites from the Gaza Strip towards Israel ... not to allow access to Gaza's maritime space until further notice," the Israeli defence ministry department responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.
A spokesman for the Israeli fire service said incendiary balloons from Gaza caused seven fires on Tuesday alone.
And there are mounting concerns that another flare-up could occur ahead of Israel's September 17 elections.
Around 80 percent of Palestinians in impoverished Gaza are reliant on international aid, according to the United Nations.
Israel has been imposing a crippling siege on Gaza for 12 years, creating a major human catastrophe in the enclave.
In 2007, Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the strip, effectively turning the coastal enclave into an open-air prison, where basic necessities such as food, fuel and medicines are severely controlled.
Critics say the blockade amounts to collective punishment of the coastal enclave's two million residents. The UN says Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020, but human rights organisations say Gaza has already reached inhabitability.
Agencies contributed to this report.
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