Israel launches airstrikes on Gaza in response to rockets firing

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GAZA/JERUSALEM, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired six rockets at southern Israel early Thursday, said the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces.

The latest conflict came as an escalation of tension only hours after an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank killed 11 Palestinians.

The rockets fired from the besieged Palestinian enclave triggered sirens in the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Sderot and several communities near the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said five rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense array, while one rocket fell in an open area.

A few hours later, Israel's air force launched a series of airstrikes on Gaza. Amateur video footage showed a large cloud of black smoke emerging from a building in Gaza.

In a statement, the Israeli military said that its fighter jets struck a weapons manufacturing site in the central Gaza Strip and a military compound in the northern Gaza strip, both of which belong to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), an Islamist Palestinian movement that runs Gaza.

Meanwhile, Palestinian security sources told Xinhua that the Israeli warplanes bombed a military post that belongs to Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Another post in western Gaza was also attacked.

Damage was caused to both posts and columns of smoke were seen rising while several nearby houses were slightly damaged due to the heavy airstrikes, but there was no report of any injuries, said the sources.

Eyewitnesses said that Gaza militants fired anti-aircraft missiles at the raiding Israeli fighter jets. Enditem

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