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Thursday, October 27, 2016

By Ofira Koopmans and Saud Abu Ramadan

TEL AVIV — Israel retaliated with artillery fire against a massive barrage of rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza at its southern communities Wednesday.

An Israeli army statement said it was the largest barrage from Gaza since the 2012 Gaza-Israel conflict.

The radical Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, saying it fired dozens of missiles to avenge the killing of three of its fighters in the south of the strip in an Israeli airstrike the previous day, as they were launching mortar shells at Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli military confirmed at least 30 landings, eight of which struck populated areas and three of which were downed by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Israeli army said its artillery stationed on the Gaza border shelled at least two launching sites.

Current tensions between Israel and Gaza militants could threaten a ceasefire reached in 2012, after an eight-day Israeli offensive on Gaza that left 180 Palestinians and six Israelis dead.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman said the armed group was re-evaluating the truce.

The ceasefire became “fragile following 1,600 recorded Israeli violations,” Abu Ahmed charged. “We believe that this agreement won’t last for too long,” he warned.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue striking back after each Palestinian rocket or mortar attack, as it had done Tuesday.

“We will continue to foil and hurt those who want to hurt us,” he said on his Facebook page.

One rocket landed in the Israeli town of Sderot, just northeast of Gaza, but caused no injuries, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The three militants killed Tuesday in southern Gaza were targeted while trying to launch mortar bombs at Israeli troops.

At least three other Gaza militants also died in an explosion Tuesday inside a three-story building in the northern Gaza Strip, wrecking the top floor. That explosion was apparently caused by an error made while preparing an explosive device, officials said.

AFP Photo/Jack Guez