IAF F-15 (file)
IAF F-15 (file)Flash 90

The Israeli Air Force has struck terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire this afternoon, following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's order to strike back hard against the perpetrators.

Sources in Gaza reported at least one IAF strike on an open area, which did not cause any injuries. It is possible the target was the site from where the rockets were launched, although this has not been confirmed.

Palestinian sources say the Israeli airstrike response focused on the Gaza neighborhoods of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia. Reports from Gaza also claim strikes carried out adjacent to an UNRWA school in eastern Rafah, in the Al-Marazi "refugee camp" in central Gaza, and in Deir al-Balah and Al-Karara in southern Gaza.

An IDF spokesman said: "The IDF was prepared for this possibility and is determined to protect the security of the residents of the State of Israel.

Earlier Tuesday, at least three rockets were fired towards the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva, hours before the end of a 24-hour extension to a five-day truce declared last week.

"Yet again, terrorists breach the ceasefire and renew fire at Israeli civilians from Hamas ruled Gaza Strip," said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of sabotaging indirect talks in Cairo aimed at brokering a longer-term ceasefire. "We don't have any information about firing rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to abort the negotiations in Cairo," Abu Zuhri told AFP.

But in a potentially explosive development, an unnamed security source told Walla! news site the rocket attack was ordered directly by Hamas's Qatar-based head Khaled Meshaal. The source claimed Meshaal had bypassed Hamas's official "military wing", the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and ordered a specially-assigned unit of Hamas operatives answerable directly to him to launch the attack.

The source claimed Meshaal was aiming to sabotage negotiations for a long-term truce in Cairo, which were not going his way.

His plan may have worked: apart from the air strike in the last few minutes Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered Israel's delegation to the talks in Cairo to return to Israel, effectively putting an end to talks there.

Weighing in on the rockets, Eshkol Regional Council head Chaim Yelin remarked: "who expected anything else? This is the language of Hamas. A language that for 14 years the state of Israel apparently hasn't understood."

Just over an hour after the rockets on Be'er Sheva, rocket sirens were heard in the Eshkol Regional Council. The IDF clarified shortly afterwards that the siren was a false alarm, and that no rockets had been fired at the region.