Israeli military launches airstrikes into Gaza Strip

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Israeli military launched at least six airstrikes into the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rockets that were fired into Southern Israel by members of Hamas earlier in the day. Among the targets hit were a police station and other sites in the city of Rafah, believed to be tunnel locations. Small arms fire has also been reported. No one was injured or killed in the strikes.

"In response to rocket and mortar fire today, the air force has attacked a number of targets in the (Gaza) Strip, including six tunnels and a Hamas position," said the Israeli military in a statement to the press.

At least 13 mortar shells and three Qassam rockets were fired into Southern Israel Sunday night, four landing in Sha'ar HaNegev where two IDF soldiers and one civilian were injured. Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, stated just before the airstrikes that the attacks would cause a military response.

"The cabinet's position from the first moment was that if the south's residents are fired on, our response will naturally be disproportionate," said Olmert to reporters.

Hamas had earlier called the threats by Israel a way to "find false pretexts to increase its aggression against the people" of the Strip. Hamas had said they were not responsible for the rocket fire. Smaller previously unknown groups are saying to be taking responsibility, but Israel says that they hold Hamas responsible for any rocket attacks into Israel from the Strip.

Earlier the IDF reportedly made phone calls, using a recorded message, to warn residents in Gaza of the airstrikes and told them to evacuate immediately. "All those residing near a terror hub, a tunnel or a weapons cache must leave the area immediately," said the message.