March 19, 2011 / 5:15 PM / 8 years ago

Israeli shells hit Gaza after militant mortar attack

Palestinians survey the scene after Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip March 19, 2011. Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip wounded five Hamas security officers and a boy on Saturday after militants launched mortar bombs into Israel, lightly injuring two people, Gaza medics and the army said. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip wounded five Hamas security officers and a boy on Saturday after militants launched mortar bombs into Israel, lightly injuring two people, Gaza medics and the army said.

The Israeli military confirmed dozens of mortar shells had landed in Israel, one hitting a house at an agricultural community close to the border, and that two people were hurt.

Israeli media reports put the number of shells fired by militants at around 50, making it one of the heaviest barrages launched by militants for months.

Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for firing 10 of Saturday’s mortars, an unusual move after a long period in which it had let other smaller militant groups do its bidding.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement he “viewed gravely Hamas’s criminal attacks on Israeli citizens” and added “Israel would take all necessary measures to protect its citizens.”

In a second incident after dark, the military said tanks and aircraft hit two militants who approached the border fence in the northern part of the strip. It was part of ongoing action along the border witnessed throughout by Gaza residents.

Gaza ambulance workers said they could not get to the scene to confirm the state of the two men the military said it had targeted.

Israel maintains a partial blockade of the Gaza Strip to try to curb Hamas and other militant groups who refuse to recognize it or join peace moves by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah faction, which rules the occupied West Bank.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Sophie Hares

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