Israel targets Islamic Jihad in Syria and Gaza

Image: A Palestinian militant carries chairs as he surveys an Islamic Jihad
A Palestinian militant carries chairs as he surveys an Islamic Jihad site on Monday that was targeted in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Copyright Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
By Rachel Elbaum and Lawahez Jabari and Paul Goldman with NBC News World News
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The hostilities came after militants attempted to plant explosives next to Gaza border, and dozens of rockets were fired at Israel, military says.

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Israeli forces struck Islamic Jihad targets in Syria and the Gaza Strip late Sunday after the militant organization fired dozens of rockets into Israel and militants attempted to plant a device next to the fence with Gaza, the military said in a statement.

Two militants from the group were killed in the strikes on a compound outside Damascus, Syria, Islamic Jihad said in a tweet. The Israeli military described the site as a "hub of Islamic Jihad's activity in Syria" that included a weapons research and development hub where rocket fuel was developed, as well as a training center.

In Gaza, Israeli fighter jets targeted dozens of Islamic Jihad targets in the north and south, including underground weapons storage and training compounds, the statement said.

This latest round of hostilities began on Sunday when Israel said its troops killed an Islamic Jihad member who was trying to plant explosives near Israel's border fence with the Gaza Strip.

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Islamic Jihad then fired dozens of rockets into Israel, setting off air raid sirens and forcing Israelis in the areas surrounding Gaza to run for shelters on Sunday and Monday. Some of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the military said, and there were no reports of injuries.

Schools in the region were closed, affecting around 65,000 children, and there was also a ban on public gatherings of more than 300 people.

"The IDF views the rocket attack towards Israeli territory with great severity, is prepared and will continue operating as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli civilians," the statement concluded.

Islamic Jihad is the second-largest militant group in Gaza and is supported by Iran. Hamas, which runs Gaza, has yet to make a statement on the strikes. Both groups vow to destroy Israel and are considered terrorist groups by the United States.

In November, hundreds of rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip after an Israeli airstrike targeted and killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza.

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