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Netanyahu warns of action if Hamas not to halt rocket attack

JERUSALEM, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned Gaza's Hamas rulers to either halt rocket fire from the coastal enclave or bear the consequences.

"I want to clarify that if the quiet achieved in Pillar Of Defense is violated and the rocket attacks continue, there will be two options: either Hamas will stop the rocket fire, or we will," Netanyahu was quoted as telling a meeting of the parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

He did not elaborate on what action Israel would take in the event that Hamas does not heed the warning.

The remarks came hours after Palestinian militants fired a barrage of rockets at southern Israel, marking the first time that Hamas' military wing was involved in rocket strikes since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended nine days of fighting in November 2012, which saw nearly 2,000 rockets fired at Israel and a similar number of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

At least 16 rockets were launched overnight on Sunday until early Monday, most of which exploded in open areas in the western Negev, the Israeli military said.

Air raid sirens blared across Israeli communities bordering Gaza shortly before midnight as three Qassam-type rockets were fired, alerting residents to take shelter. It resounded in the early morning hours as more than a dozen projectiles were fired in succession. No injuries were reported in the attack, but a structure in an undisclosed community was lightly damaged by shrapnel, the police said. There was no immediate Israeli retaliation.

The tit-for-tat violence on Israel's southern frontier has spiked since the Israeli military launched massive searches in the West Bank for three Jewish teenagers who went missing on June 12. Israel said the three were abducted by Hamas militants.

The Israel Air Force (IAF) has been responding aggressively to the rocket fire, with their latest air strike targeting a militant cell east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on Sunday night.

The Palestinians said that Muhammad Zaid Abid, a Hamas operative, was killed and at least two others wounded in the strike, which came shortly after two Grads were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system over the town of Netivot.

At the same time, militants opened fire on soldiers patrolling the southern Gaza security fence. The soldiers returned fire at a suspected gunman across the border, the army said.

On Saturday, the IAF struck a dozen targets in Gaza in retaliation to eight rockets, one of which set on fire a plastics factory in the town of Sderot. A day before, an airstrike targeted and killed two senior members of the Popular Resistance Committees who the military said were involved in recent rocket attacks.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel would escalate its response to the rocket fire. "We are prepared to expand the military action if necessary," he said.

Netanyahu said that he viewed the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as responsible for preventing the rocket attacks after recently forming a unity government with Hamas.

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