Tel Aviv/Gaza: Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon on Wednesday warned the Islamic Hamas movement to refrain from any attempt to fire rockets at Israel, after a Tuesday night rocket attack in the south even as Hamas held Tel Aviv responsible for the escalation of tensions between the two sides.
The rocket fired from Gaza landed in Gan Yavne town, some 56 km west of Jerusalem, Xinhua news agency reported.
"If there won't be quiet in Israel, Gaza will pay a very heavy price," Yaalon said.
The defence minister also blamed the Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant organisation from Gaza, for Tuesday night's rocket attack.
The Israeli air force struck four targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the overnight rocket attack. Yaalon said the air strikes targeted Islamic Jihad and Hamas bases in the Gaza Strip.
Peter Lerner, the Israeli air force spokesman, said the strikes were a direct response to Hamas.
"The reality that Hamas's territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel is unacceptable and intolerable and will bear consequences. Israelis cannot be expected to live in the perpetual fear of rocket attacks; the IAF will continue to operate in order to seek out those that wish to undermine Israeli sovereignty with acts of terrorism." Lerner said in a statement.
However, no casualties were reported.
It was the first intensive Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since the end of Israel's 50-day large-scale military air and ground operation last year, that left over 2,150 Palestinians dead.
According to another Xinhua report from Gaza, Hamas on Wednesday held Israel responsible for the fresh escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, after Israeli aircraft struck the enclave at pre-dawn.
Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in an emailed press statement that "Israeli occupation is held responsible for the current escalation in the Gaza Strip overnight and on Wednesday morning".
"Hamas warns of exaggeration in these stupid actions," said Abu Zuhri, in response to the launching of Israeli airstrikes on militants' training facilities in the Gaza Strip.
Leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad denied earlier on Tuesday night that their militants had fired any rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, told Xinhua that his movement was not aware of firing of any rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, adding "the Palestinian factions are committed to the ceasefire agreement".
Meanwhile, Khader Habib, a senior Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, said that his movement was not responsible for firing any rockets into Israel.
"I affirm that the Islamic Jihad movement hasn't fired any rocket from Gaza into our occupied Palestinian territories," said Habib, adding "the Israeli media reports are baseless and untrue".
Habib added that "Israel is using such excuses and lies to prepare for launching a new aggression on the Gaza Strip".
Meanwhile, Hamas rejected on Wednesday an Amnesty International Report which blamed the Hamas movement for committing crimes against Palestinian civilians during last summer's Israeli war on Gaza.
The movement said in an emailed press statement that the report of Amnesty "is suspicious and lacks professional criteria" adding "the report depends on alleged claims that are rootless and untrue".
The report accused Hamas of killing “23 Palestinian civilians during the war on Gaza without trial, while wounding, detaining and torturing dozens only for political differences".
Hamas said the movement has no link to the actions mentioned in the report and that the interior ministry was investigating these actions, adding "once the results are ready, it will be immediately announced".