Israel says it hits Gaza launch pad after rocket fired 
Smoke rises from buildings in Gaza City following Israeli airstrikes - AP
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JERUSALEM: The Israeli military carried out an airstrike on a rocket launching device in the Gaza Strip Wednesday after it was used by militants to fire on Israel.

The airstrike hit an open area in northern Gaza, causing no casualties. The rocket, fired into southern Israel late Tuesday, also struck an empty field without wounding anyone.

An Islamic extremist group in Gaza claimed responsibility for the rocket attack. The same group has claimed responsibility for sporadic rocket fire into Israel which has increased in recent weeks.

Analysts say extremists in Gaza inspired by the Islamic State group are deliberately violating the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which followed last year’s war, in order to undermine Hamas. The extremists believe Hamas is soft on Israel and has failed to establish Islamic rule in the territory.

Hamas says such groups have also targeted it directly by bombing security posts, and has launched a crackdown against them.

Israel considers Hamas, an Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, to be responsible for any attacks originating from the territory it controls.

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who commands Cogat, the Israeli security branch responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said that some of the goodwill gestures made in honor of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan would be cancelled because of the rocket fire.

Israel was to grant some 500 people from Gaza entry Friday for Ramadan celebrations and prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. It blamed Hamas for the cancellation, saying it had failed to prevent rocket attacks.

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