Rocket fired into Israel from Gaza stokes fears of major clashes


"In light of the security events I made a decision to cut short my visit to the U.S.", Netanyahu said, calling the rocket fire a "heinous attack".

In Gaza, tensions have been high as residents of the impoverished strip, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian imposed land, sea and air blockade for more than a decade, have been protesting the extreme poverty and Hamas' heavy-handed tactics cracking down on unrest.

Israeli fighter jets carried out two airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Sunday following the launch of incendiary balloons from the Palestinian territory, according to the military. Israeli police say the rocket hit a residential home in the community of Mishmeret, north of the city of Kfar Saba, setting off a fire and destroying the house.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now in Washington, where he is due to meet US President Donald Trump later Monday.

Israel's army said the rocket was sacked from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

Explosions were heard in central Israel as air raid sirens wailed.

The house was destroyed in the wake of the rocket and subsequent fire, with burnt wood, a children's toy and other debris piled at the site.

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Netanyahu said his decision to return to Israel was made after he consulted with Israeli military and intelligence chiefs.

Hamas issued a more muted response following the Ketziot Prison incident, calling on the worldwide human rights organizations to intervene in the way Israeli security forces treat Palestinian prisoners and to protect them from "the ongoing Israeli crimes".

One Palestinian was wounded in the strike, a medical source in Gaza said.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire towards Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel as a policy holds Hamas responsible for all violence coming from Gaza, which the Islamist terror group seized from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in a violent coup in 2007.

At least 258 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since weekly border protests began almost a year ago. Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day conflict in the summer of 2014.

No Israelis have been injured by the recent balloon attacks, though damage was caused to a home in the Eshkol region last month. They also maintain that the restrictions on movement are in place to prevent Hamas and other terrorist groups from smuggling weapons into the Strip.