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Israel retaliates for rocket fire from Gaza following Sharon funeral

JTA

January 13, 2014 | 12:49 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his funeral near Sycamore Farm, Sharon's residence in southern Israel, on Jan. 13. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of the grave of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during his funeral near Sycamore Farm, Sharon's residence in southern Israel, on Jan. 13. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Israeli airstrikes hit two terror sites in Gaza in retaliation for rockets fired at southern Israel moments after the private funeral service for Ariel Sharon.

Israel reportedly had warned Hamas in Gaza not to fire rockets at Israel during Monday afternoon’s funeral for the former prime minister at his Sycamore Ranch in the Negev.

The 1,000-acre ranch is located just a few miles from Israel’s border with Gaza and well within reach of rockets fired from the coastal strip.

“It was made clear to them that tomorrow would be a very bad day for anyone there to test Israel’s patience,” Reuters reported on Monday, quoting an unnamed Israeli security source.

Friends of Sharon who attended the invitation-only service told Haaretz that they heard the explosions of the rockets as they landed in an open area near the ranch.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense  Forces said in a statement that the Israeli Air Force targeted two sites in the central and southern Gaza Strip, and that the “terror infrastructure was used to enhance terror capabilities against Israel.” Direct hits were confirmed, according to the statement.

“The terrorists and their infrastructure operating in the Gaza Strip will not succeed in their grotesque intentions,” the IDF said in its statement.

Two rockets also were fired in Gaza on Monday morning but landed in Gaza territory, according to the Israeli media. The IDF characterized the rockets as “test fires,” according to Reuters.

Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries reportedly were deployed in the area of the ranch for the funeral and burial, which was attended by family and close friends, including government and military officials.

A public funeral was held earlier in the day with dignitaries from around the world, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and Israeli military leaders and government officials.

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