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Israel fires missiles into Gaza after Palestinian attacks

An Israeli woman dies in Palestinian rocket attacks

Emergency responders and bystanders gather at the scene of a missile strike Thursday in Gaza.


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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israel fired missiles into Gaza early Friday, shortly after closing three main roads connecting northern, central and southern Gaza, Palestinian sources said.

The strikes followed several Palestinian rocket attacks Thursday in which an Israeli woman died.

The Palestinian sources said four strikes took place: one in Jabaliya in northern Gaza, two in Der al Balah in central Gaza and one in Khan Younis in the south.

The Israel Defense Forces said the army attacked a Hamas weapons-storage facility in Khan Younis, but it said nothing about any other attacks.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.

"Israel will exercise its right for self-defense. It will take the necessary steps to stop the firing of rockets out of Gaza," said Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Palestinian militants fired several crude rockets into Israel from northern Gaza on Thursday, Israeli military officials said. The incidents preceded the road closings within Gaza.

Four rockets landed in the Israeli community of Nativ HaAsara, north of Gaza. A woman in her 20s was critically wounded and later died, medical officials said. Another civilian was slightly wounded.

Another four rockets landed in the Israeli community of Nahal Oz. Several mortar rounds also were fired at the Israeli settlement of Netzarim in central Gaza, military officials said.

An official in Sharon's office blamed the Palestinian Authority for not taking steps to prevent such attacks.

Elsewhere Thursday in Gaza, 20 people were wounded in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jabaliya in fighting between Palestinian security forces and Izzedine al Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, Palestinian sources said.

The fighting came in response to Hamas rocket fire earlier in Siderot, in eastern Gaza.

In the fighting, which began about 9 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), four cars were set afire by rocket and mortar fire, medical sources said.

No word was available on how many casualties were members of the security forces and how many were Hamas members.

Palestinian Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Naser Yesf put his forces on high alert.

Thursday's violence in Gaza followed a suicide bombing Tuesday that killed four Israelis and wounded 90 others outside a shopping mall in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. (Full story)

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which the State Department labels a terrorist organization, claimed responsibility, and the IDF said its troops arrested five members in connection with the attack.

Gaza access closed

Israel closed off access to Gaza settlements by nonresidents Wednesday ahead of Monday's planned march to protest Sharon's disengagement plan.

According to Sharon's office, the prime minister ordered the closure after he consulted with his defense minister and security heads.

In shutting down access, the army closed Kissufim Crossing -- the only entrance to the main Gaza settlement block.

Israel plans to remove Jewish settlers and the Israeli troops who guard them from Gaza and parts of the West Bank by mid-August, and the closure will remain in effect until then, Sharon's office said.

Sharon announced plans last year to close 21 settlements and move about 8,000 Israelis from Gaza, which is also home to about 1.3 million Palestinians.

The withdrawal plan has generated anger among Israeli settlers and their supporters, who have staged protests and scuffled with police and Palestinians in recent weeks.

In a speech to Israeli police Thursday, Sharon said, "The implementation of the disengagement plan is the most important thing to the state of Israel."

With some Israeli settlers and rabbis planning protests, Sharon told the police officers to "respond with restraint and respect for their legitimate right to protest." But he also said to be aware of "radical elements" who could "undermine the character of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

"I believe that disobedience is the worst thing that can happen," Sharon said. "It is an attempt to bring about the destruction of the state of Israel and it must be prevented in any way. My instruction in these instances is clear: Political protest -- yes; political violence -- not under any circumstances."

Less than three weeks ago, the Israeli army declared all Gaza settlements a controlled military zone before emptying a hotel of right-wing protesters who oppose the government's plan to withdraw from Gaza.

Israel has controlled the 138-square-mile area of Gaza since capturing it from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War.

CNN'sTalal Aburahma contributed to this report.

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