Israel's military said that the airstrikes were in response to the first Gaza rocket attack in four years to actually hit an Israeli home. Hours earlier, the defense minister had said it was time to hit Hamas hard.
Israel's military began targeting militant sites in Gaza on Wednesday, calling the attacks a response to earlier rockets that were launched from Gaza, one of which struck a residential home in southern Israel.
"In response to the rockets fired from #Gaza at #Israel overnight, IDF fighter jets started to attack terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip," the Israel Defense Forces wrote on Twitter, two hours after sharing news of the rocket attack and saying "we will defend Israeli civilians."
One 25-year-old Palestinian militant was killed and three others were wounded in the Gaza strikes. An Israeli military spokesman said 20 Hamas targets were struck, including offensive tunnels, weapon workshops and naval shafts.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also announced the closure of both of Israel's border crossings with Gaza, the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez people crossings. The permitted fishing zone along the Gaza coast was also reduced to three nautical miles.
The Palestinian rockets that triggered Israel's response fell on the city of Beersheba, which is located approximately 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Gaza and is the largest city in southern Israel, with a population of around 200,000 people. Palestinian militants often try to launch makeshift projectiles into Israel, most are either intercepted or do little damage.
A woman and her three children lived in the residential home in Beersheba that was struck by the rocket. The family had fled to the shelter prior to the attack and were not harmed. It was the first rocket to hit an Israeli home since the 2014 summer conflict between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers.
Palestinians along the Gaza border have been staging semi-regular protests since March. The demonstrations have ranged from rock throwing to other violent acts, with the goal of pressuring Israel to lift its decade-long blockade on the territory.
Last week, some 14,000 Palestinians rushed the border fence, burning tires and throwing rocks, firebombs and grenades at soldiers stationed on the other side of the barrier.
Some 20 Palestinians managed to cross the border during Friday's protest. Seven Palestinians were killed, including four who were shot while approaching a military position inside Israeli territory.
Israel has accused Hamas of using the protests as a pretext to carry out attacks on Israeli soldiers and border communities. On Tuesday, Defense Minister Lieberman had warned that the time had come to deliver a "heavy blow" to Hamas, after weeks of escalating violence along the border.
jcg/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)