(Adds Israeli air strikes in Gaza, Netanyahu and Abbas
comments, updates number of rockets fired at Israel)
JERUSALEM, March 12 Israel bombed 29 targets in
the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Israeli military said, after
Palestinian militants in the coastal territory fired 60 rockets
into Israel in the heaviest such barrage since 2012.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the
military "to take any action necessary to restore calm" to
Israel's south, and that "if there is no quiet in the south then
it will be noisy in Gaza, and that's an understatement."
The rocket fire, which police said resulted in no
casualties, was claimed by the Islamic Jihad group and came a
day after Israel killed three of its members in a Gaza air
A military spokesman said 60 rockets hit Israel "in a
simultaneous coordinated attack," and five landed in built-up
Israel bombed 29 militant targets in response, he said.
Israeli forces fired tank shells in response at what the
spokesman described as "two terrorist locations" in Gaza.
Israeli warplanes bombed five militant training camps,
Palestinian officials and witnesses said.
There were no immediate reports from the Palestinian enclave
of any casualties.
"It's a (rocket) barrage such as we haven't seen for two
years," Haim Yellin, a local Israeli municipal official in the
south, told Army Radio, referring to an eight-day war between
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in November 2012.
Sirens sounded in several communities across southern Israel
to alert residents to take shelter and general warnings urged
everyone in the area to remain indoors.
The Israeli military said it targeted and killed the three
Islamic Jihad militants on Tuesday after they fired mortar bombs
at Israeli soldiers.
Islamic Jihad said at the time that its men had been killed
confronting Israeli troops who had entered the Gaza Strip.
Commenting on Wednesday's barrage, Islamic Jihad said it had
fired 90 rockets towards Israel and named the operation
"Breaking the Silence."
Palestinian officials said that after the rocket strikes,
Israel had informed them that it was closing the Kerem Shalom
crossing, through which goods pass into the Gaza Strip, until
Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers out of the
territory, run by Hamas Islamists, in 2005. But it maintained a
naval and air blockade and severely restricted the overland
movement of people and goods across the volatile border.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement via
his spokesman urging an end to what he called "Israeli military
escalation in the Gaza Strip."
In Washington, the U.S. State Department condemned the
rocket attacks and said Israel had a right to defend itself.
"There is no justification for such attacks," spokeswoman
Jen Psaki said in a statement. "We call for these terrorist
attacks to cease immediately."
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Allyn Fisher-Ilan in
Jerusalem, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Lesley Wroughton in
Washington; Editing by Tom Heneghan, Amanda Kwan and Mohammad