Israel raids Gaza after rocket attacks

Jerusalem — Israeli warplanes launched raids against targets in Gaza overnight after two rockets were fired at Israel from the coastal enclave, Palestinian security officials said on Saturday.

No one was hurt in the air attacks which struck bases of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza, in Gaza City and east of it, one source said.

A military spokeswoman confirmed the raids and said warplanes struck "targets of a terrorist organization" in response to "two rockets fired on Ashkelon and Ashdod" in southern Israel on Friday afternoon.

Friday's attack was the first time any rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip since Sunday when militants in the Hamas-run territory began observing an unspoken truce, a military spokesman had said.

There were no injuries and no damage, policy spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP on Friday.

He did not specify what type of projectiles they were, but the military said it was likely they were Grad rockets because of their longer range.

The truce came into effect after days of soaring violence in which Israeli troops pounded Gaza, killing 19 Palestinians, after militants fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus, critically wounding an Israeli teenager.

The raids occurred as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday thanked US President Barack Obama after the House of Representatives passed a budget bill this week confirming military aid to Israel.

"We express our profound thanks. This is further evidence of our close ties of friendship and our shared values… We could continue to develop the means to defend our civilians," Netanyahu said in a statement from his office.

Since 2007, the United States has granted annual military aid to Israel worth almost $3 billion, which is entirely devoted to the purchase of American weapons as part of a 10-year agreement.

In May last year, Obama asked Congress to give Israel an additional $205 million for the acquisition of four new batteries of the "Iron Dome" anti-rocket system.

Two of the batteries deployed near the towns of Ashkelon and Beersheva were put to use for the first time last weekend and have brought down several projectiles fired by militants from the Gaza Strip.

The costly system is capable of intercepting rockets with ranges of four to 70km.

Each battery comprises detection and tracking radar, state-of-the-art fire control software and three launchers, each with 20 interceptor missiles, according to military officials.

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