Israel strikes Gaza rocket launchers after attack on Ashkelon

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Air Force struck two concealed rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel.

The Israeli military confirmed direct hits on the targeted launchers Monday morning, several hours after two rockets were fired at Ashkelon and surrounding communities. One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system above Ashkelon, according to the Israel Defense Forces. A second landed in an open area near Ashkelon. The Color Red warning siren sounded in the area moments before the rocket struck.

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The rocket attacks came hours after Israel released the names of 26 Palestinian prisoners set for release on Tuesday in a good-will gesture as part of on-going peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Five of the prisoners set to be released are from Gaza.

On Sunday, two mortars fired from Gaza landed in Israel near the border fence with Gaza.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said in a statement: “This targeted strike, based on IDF intelligence and advanced Air-Force capabilities, is an immediate response to the terrorist aggression and its infrastructure in Gaza. Hamas must take responsibility for these actions or pay the price for inaction. We will continue to safeguard the civilians of the State of Israel, and prevent future attempts of terrorism formulating in the Gaza Strip.”