The Israeli air force launched 15 strikes on the Gaza Strip after rockets were fired at southern Israel from the besieged territory, as security forces clashed with Palestinian youths in Jerusalem after the abduction and killing of a teenager.
At least 10 Gazans were reportedly injured in the airstrikes, including a 17-year-old boy. The Israeli military said the strikes were aimed at concealed rocket launchers and weapon storage facilities.
On Wednesday, armed groups fired up to 20 rockets at Israel, with only about half of them making it over the border. Israel’s Iron Dome, an air defense system, intercepted two over Netivot, and six fell into open areas, Israeli news website Haaretz reported.
Two homes were hit by in the southern Israeli town of Sderot but did not explode. There were no injuries reported because the family was in their shelter, Israeli Defense Forces said. A power outage was reported in Sderot after the attacks.
Hamas said in a statement Wednesday that it holds the "Israeli occupation [fully] responsible" for the Palestinian teen's murder, adding that the incident "exposes [Israel's] ugly ... racism" and "refutes the Israeli narration of being the victim all the time."
United Nations Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay denounced both the Palestinian and Israel fire on Thursday. "From a human rights point of view, I utterly condemn these rocket attacks and more especially I condemn Israel's excessive acts of retaliation,” Pillay said.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) mobilized tanks and infantry south toward Gaza after the escalation, Haaretz reported.
Gaza’s rocket fire came after Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed in a suspected revenge attack by hard-line Israeli settlers, after the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank. The three boys were kidnapped on June 12, setting off a massive Israeli military operation in the West Bank that reportedly lead to the deaths of at least 6 Palestinians and arrests of over 500.
Abu Khdeir’s body was found in a forest outside Jerusalem, partially burned and showing signs of violence. The night before his abduction, right-wing Israelis marched through Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs” and reportedly assaulted several Palestinians in revenge for the three teens who were killed in the West Bank.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers and civilians have joined social media campaigns calling for revenge murders of Palestinians since the bodies of the three Israeli teens — Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar — were found on Monday.
A Facebook page called “The people of Israel demand vengeance” gained 36,000 likes in two days before being removed. The page was filled with users’ photos of themselves holding signs demanding revenge. Some of those photos were Israeli soldiers currently serving in the occupied territories, calling for the deaths of Palestinians.
The IDF said Thursday that it planned to use a “strong hand” against soldiers found to have called for revenge. A military spokesman said the army would open an investigation into posts made on social media sites that called for revenge murders.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said in a press release that Jerusalem district police had been carrying out an intensive investigation into Abu Khdeir’s murder, but added “the motive for the murder cannot be determined at present.”
Abu Khdeir’s murder sparked massive street demonstrations in east Jerusalem Wednesday, with Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli security forces, which reportedly responded with tear gas, rubber-coated-steel bullets, sound grenades and live ammunition.
Aharonovitch said in the release that “units in Jerusalem and around the country are being reinforced and asked the public to show restraint and patience at this time in order to allow the investigators to carry out their work.”
On Wednesday, Abu Khdeir’s family criticized the Israeli police for their inaction in finding the killers of their son. Witnesses said they had written down the license plate of the car the teen was forced into, and CCTV footage had captured the incident.
“If things were different and an Arab kidnapped an Israeli, it would have been uncovered in moments,” Hussein Abu Khdeir, the boy’s father, said, according to Palestinian news website Maan News. He added that Israeli police detained and interrogated him for several hours after his son’s body was found.
Abu Khdeir's autopsy was to take place Thursday afternoon in Tel Aviv, and a Palestinian pathologist from Ramallah planned to join. After the procedure, the teen's body will be released for burial and the funeral will take place Thursday evening in Shuafat, an east Jerusalem refugee camp, near his home, Haaretz reported.
The street protests in Jerusalem continued overnight, with four Palestinians injured early Thursday, one critically. Medical sources said one man was shot in the head and was in critical condition, Maan news reported. Dozens were injured in clashes Wednesday.
Streets in the Beit Hanina and Shuafat neighborhoods of occupied east Jerusalem were empty Thursday, as the Israeli military reportedly closed the entrances of the areas. Stones littered the roads, and damage to some cars could be seen.