JERUSALEM, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Israeli officials said on Thursday evening that they are ready to respond to any more assaults from Gaza, after a day of attacks and counterattacks.
The flare-up came after Gaza-based militants fired at least dozen mortars at soldiers near the separation fence between Israel and the Palestinian enclave, reportedly in retaliation for a fatal shooting of a Palestinian villager by a settler in the West Bank earlier on Thursday.
An Israeli military spokesperson said the mortars targeted a military position next to the fence. According to the spokesperson, the mortars caused no injuries but a minor damage was done to the position and the soldiers had to stop the "important infrastructure works" they were doing.
Additionally, the train service between the southern town of Sderot and the city of Ashkelon was temporarily halted for fear of further attacks.
No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Less than an hour later, Israel struck Gaza with tanks and an aircraft.
"IDF (Israel Defense Forces) tanks and IAF (Israel Air Force) aircraft targeted four military posts in the northern Gaza Strip," the military said in a statement.
Two of the posts belonged to Hamas, an Islamist organization that controls the Gaza Strip, and two to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based Islamist group, according to the army.
The statement added that the army holds Hamas "responsible for any hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from the Gaza Strip."
A few hours later, an Israeli aircraft bombed Gaza again, injuring at least three persons, according to the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza.
The military released a notice saying the aircraft targeted "two additional military posts belonging to the terror organization in central Gaza Strip," without elaborating on the specific targets.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said the residents of Gaza received no notice ahead of the bombing "because there were no civilians near the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions; these were military targets."
"The (Israeli military) sees this as a severe event," Conricus told journalists about the mortar attack.
He said the mortars were fired by Islamic Jihad militants but Israel holds Hamas responsible.
"We know exactly who conducted this attack," he said. "We even know them by name, but we hold the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for any act of hostility perpetrating from the Gaza Strip against Israel," he said.
"We remain ready with the tools necessary and the capabilities at hand should Hamas or the Islamic Jihad act aggressively again. We are not looking to escalate the situation or to initiate hostilities," Conricus said.
The Israeli spokesman revealed that the mortar attack came exactly a month after Israel blew up a tunnel leading from Gaza into Israel, killing at least 14 Islamic Jihad militants.
The demolition raised tensions between Israel and Gaza, with leaders on both sides hurling threats and counter-threats. The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad vowed to avenge the death of its fighters, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to "take a very firm stance against anyone who tries to attack us."
On Thursday, Islamic Jihad Spokesman Dawoud Shahab said in a statement that the group had the "full right to respond to this dangerous escalation for which the (Israeli) occupation is responsible."
The escalation came at a sensitive time when rival Fatah and Hamas are working on the implementation of a historic reconciliation deal. Under the deal signed in October, Hamas would hand power back to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) after nearly a decade of dominance in the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Israel objects the deal and has called for Hamas to disarm itself.
On Wednesday, the West Bank-based PNA said it agreed to postpone the final power transfer of Gaza from Hamas to the Ramallah-based concensus government, which is acknowledged by the international community, until Dec. 10 to allow for complete arrangements.
Israel's last massive offensive in the Gaza Strip concluded in 2014. Since then, sporadic fighting occurs on both sides of the border but has never evolved into a full-blown war.