ISRAELI warplanes have launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza in retaliation after a rocket attack.
The hit in the coastal city of Ashkelon activated air raid sirens and sent thousands of residents running for cover to bomb shelters.
The Israeli military said the rocket was intercepted by the aerial defence system.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza or Israel.
No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire but the Israeli military blamed Hamas.
Just hours later Israeli aircraft launched airstrikes on four military sites in Gaza.
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"In response to the rocket attack, Israel Defence Forces aircraft struck a number of Hamas terror targets in the Gaza Strip," the Israeli military said in a statement.
Dramatic footage showed plumes of smoke and fire rising from the targeted camps in the central and northern Gaza Strip.
Qassem said Saturday's Israeli air strikes were a "helpless attempt to end the revolutionary actions spreading across Palestine".
The strike comes after nearly two months of relative calm in the area in contrast to soaring tensions in the occupied West Bank.
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On Friday, Israeli troops killed three Palestinian gunmen in the city of Jenin, where military raids have been stepped up after men from the area carried out several lethal street attacks in Israel.
Hamas said one of the gunmen was among its members, while another militant group that draws on members of the Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad claimed the dead gunmen as its own.
Also on Friday, an Israeli observation balloon crashed and fell in the northern Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military said it was investigating the incident.
The surge of violence in the West Bank continues with the Israeli military carrying out nearly daily raids after a string of attacks killed 19 people in Israel.
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And last month Israel was accused of “assassinating”US Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh who was reporting from the occupied area.
The 51-year-old was covering unrest in the Jenin refugee camp when she was shot dead and Israel has claimed it was “likely” it was Palestinian gunfire that killed her.
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