Israel launches airstrikes in Gaza after rockets fired

Meanwhile, Israel’s Netanyahu says there will be military presence in the West Bank even if a peace deal is reached

Palestinian security personnel inspect a damaged building after overnight Israeli air raids in the central Gaza Strip, June 28, 2014.
Mahmud Hams/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip Sunday, saying the strikes were in retaliation for six rockets from Gaza that struck Israel the previous evening.

Two of the rockets from the Hamas-ruled territory hit a factory in the southern town of Sderot, setting it ablaze.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, suggested reoccupying Gaza to stop the rocket fire, saying that limited military operations against armed groups in Gaza have only strengthened Hamas.

"Either with each round we attack terror infrastructure and they shoot, or we go to full occupation," Lieberman said on Army Radio.

The military said it targeted 12 "terror activity" sites in Gaza where rockets had been launched or manufactured.

It is unclear if there were causalities from the attacks.On Friday, an Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians in Gaza who were members of the Tawhid Brigades, an armed group unaffiliated with Hamas, according to Palestinian security officials and fighters from the group. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists.

The security officials had initially said the two Palestinians were members of a different Hamas-allied armed group, al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, that often fires rockets at Israel.

More than 60 rockets have been launched from Gaza towards Israel this month – more than four times the number launched in May — and 28 of the rockets hit Israeli territory, the Israeli military said. The crude, makeshift devices rarely wound anyone, but they have caused damage and panic in Israeli communities.

The increase in attacks comes as the Israeli army continues a wide-ranging operation in the West Bank to search for three Israeli youths who went missing this month.

The three teens, between the ages of 16 and 19, disappeared near a Jewish seminary at an illegal Israeli settlement as they were hitchhiking in the West Bank. In their last communication, one of the three managed to phone police Thursday night to report that they were being kidnapped, according to an Israeli security official.

Israel named two members of Hamas as leading suspects in the alleged kidnapping. Although Israel has accused Hamas of being involved, it has provided no solid evidence to support the claim.

Israel in the past week arrested several hundred Palestinians in aggressive house-to-house raids throughout the West Bank, which at times turned deadly and led some rights groups to accuse Israel of imposing collective punishment on civilians. 

Long term presence in Gaza

In a speech Sunday to a Tel Aviv think tank, Israel's prime minister announced that Israel would maintain a long-term military presence in the West Bank even after any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out his positions, which put him at odds with prevailing international opinion, in a policy speech.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the heartland of a future independent state — a position that is largely endorsed by the international community.

Netanyahu said that given the threats in the region, Israel would have to maintain a military presence throughout the West Bank for the foreseeable future. "We must be able to stop the terrorism and fundamentalism that can reach us from the east at the Jordan line and not in the suburbs of Tel Aviv," he said.

"Therefore we must understand that in any future agreement with the Palestinians, Israel will have to continue controlling security in the territory up to Jordan for a very long time," he said.

Israel unilaterally pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but continues to control access to the territory by air, land and sea.

Israeli leaders have said the pullout cleared the way for Hamas to seize control of the territory two years later, turning it into a base for rocket attacks on Israel. Still, there has been little support for reoccupying the territory.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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