GAZA Israeli aircraft attacked targets throughout the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, unleashing dozens of strikes in swift succession according to Reuters witnesses.
The aerial bombardment set off earth-shaking thuds and fireballs in the dark sky and were met with screeches of Palestinian rocket fire launched from the outskirts of Gaza City towards southern Israel.
The airstrikes marked an escalation of two days of reciprocal attacks between the Palestinian militant Hamas group ensconced in the coastal enclave and the Israeli military, which killed a top Islamist leader on Wednesday.
Israel's military said that in the space of an hour it had targeted approximately 70 underground launching sites for medium-range rockets.
"The sites that have been targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence collected over the course of months." it said in a statement.
Residents said the military assault also destroyed an electricity generator that fed the house of Hamas's prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. It was unclear whether he was at home at the time.
Israeli aircraft also bombed a police station in central Gaza and tunnels on Gaza's border with Egypt through which basic civilian goods and arms destined for militant groups pass into the Strip, which is under a tight blockade by Israel and Egypt.
Hours earlier, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another armed party in Gaza, launched two missiles against Tel Aviv -- the first time Israel's commercial capital has come under such attack since the 1991 Gulf War. No injuries or damage was reported.
(Reporting By Noah Browning; editing by Crispian Balmer)