A fireball rises following an air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza, early Sunday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip traded rocket fire overnight and into Monday as tensions between the two sides turned violent for a third straight night.
Early Monday, the Israeli Air Force said its warplanes carried out an airstrike into the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket fired into Israel, officials said.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement early Monday that it targeted a Hamas military post in Khan Yunis, adding that a heavy machine gun was fired at Israel during the airstrikes.
"Once again, the terrorist organization Hamas chooses to act in the ways of terrorism over the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip," the IDF said in a statement. "The IDF will not accept a situation in which terrorist organizations act against the Israeli home front."
The IDF holds the militant Hamas organization responsible for all activity directed at it from the strip of Palestinian-controlled land along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
The airstrike followed an earlier IDF attack in which Israeli warplanes hit four Hamas military training compounds, a weapons workshop and an underground tunnel entrance, the military said via Twitter. That strike came in retaliation to a rocket fired from Palestinian territory, the IDF tweeted, adding that the projectile had been intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
On Sunday night, the Iron Dome system also destroyed a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip over the city of Sderot.
The Israel Defense Forces posted a picture of the rocket interception, showing the detritus of an explosion in the sky falling to earth.
The Jerusalem Post reported five residents in Sderot were injured while running to shelter.
On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi warned that Israel would protect its border with Gaza.
"We are vigorously attacking for every violation and we will continue to do so, and if they escalate, Hamas and the Gaza Strip will pay a heavy price," he said.
On Sunday, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid warned Gazans that Hamas is "leading you to ruin" and said that as long as the militant group fires rockets from their territory no one will invest in its economy.
He offered an upgraded humanitarian rehabilitation of the strip that includes repairs to its electricity and gas system, improvements for healthcare and rebuilding houses and transportation infrastructure.
In exchange, Lapid said he wants a coordinated effort from Gazans against Hamas' military build-up.
"In exchange for quiet, we are willing to give more than before," he said. "If the quiet is breached, Hamas and the other terror organization need to know that the response will be harsher than before.
If Hamas leaders continue to act against Israel, Lapid said, "we will know and the international community will know, and mostly the people of Gaza will know, that Hamas refuses to improve life in Gaza because the only thing they care about is killing Jews."
This latest round of violence started Friday after Gaza militants fired a rocket into Israel, drawing counterstrikes. It follows heavy fighting in May, when conflicts broke out as Israel moved forward with plans to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes.
At least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 13 Israelis were killed before a fragile truce ended 11 days of violence.