Israel said it struck targets in the Gaza Strip on Monday after Palestinian militants fired rockets at southern Israel, in what they said was a response to an Israel air strike on Sunday that wounded two militants and eight bystanders.
Sunday's Israeli air strike was aimed at two Palestinian militants, one of whom was critically wounded. The armed wing of Hamas, the Islamists who control the Gaza Strip, said it joined in Monday's rocket attack along with the Islamic Jihad group.
Gaza has been under the control of Hamas since 2007. The Islamist group rejects permanent peace with Israeland the two sides fought a three-week war in December-January 2008-2009. The border is tense, with frequent clashes.
The Israeli army says over 470 rockets have been fired from Gaza this year, but it was the first time since June thatHamas had acknowledged launching rockets at Israel. A Hamas spokesman said the movement would not remain passive in the face of what it called "one-sided" Israeli violence.
The Israeli army said it had targeted "Hamas terror activity sites and terrorist squads responsible for the rocket fire", but gave no details. Israeli forces say they will not tolerate such attacks and will hold Hamas responsible for them.
Residents of Khan Younis in southern Gaza said an Israeli tank fired at the suspected launch area, slightly wounding four children and damaging a minaret and a water tower.
Abu Ubaida, spokesman of the Hamas armed wing Izz El-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades, said the rocket firing was a message to Israel that it would not accept "a formula of a one-sided aggression by the occupation on flimsy pretexts".
With Egyptian mediation, Hamas has made efforts in the past to clamp down on smaller militant groups that persist in launching attacks on Israel, partly in order to avoid another devastating war. A three-week Israeli offensive killed over 1,000 Palestinians in the winter of 2008-2009.
"Should the enemy continue its aggression against the Gaza Strip the reaction by the resistance will be stronger and broader," he said.
The homemade weapons fired from Gaza are inaccurate, but potentially lethal. An Israeli spokeswoman said some exploded harmlessly on Monday near the border with the Gaza Strip. But one kibbutz resident said children could have been killed.
"It was a very powerful barrage," Ilan Yosef of Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak near the Gaza border told Israel radio. "The goat pen in the (children's) petting corner was severely hit and a vet is treating the animals still alive and dealing with those that aren't."