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Israel rushes forces to southern border with Gaza

  • Israeli soldiers stand at a damaged home after a rocket  fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

    Israeli soldiers stand at a damaged home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

  • Avihai Giorno stands in his bedroom by a wedding photo of him and is wife Tammy after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

    Avihai Giorno stands in his bedroom by a wedding photo of him and is wife Tammy after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit Gaza City, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

    Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit Gaza City, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

  • An Israeli soldier films a damaged building after a rocket  fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

    An Israeli soldier films a damaged building after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • A Palestinian man carries rubble near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike on it early morning in Gaza City Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

    A Palestinian man carries rubble near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike on it early morning in Gaza City Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • Yerechmiel Steinberg looks at the damages of his home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

    Yerechmiel Steinberg looks at the damages of his home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

  • A Palestinian looks through a hole near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike on it early morning in Gaza City Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

    A Palestinian looks through a hole near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike on it early morning in Gaza City Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • Israeli soldiers stand at a damaged home after a rocket  fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)
  • Avihai Giorno stands in his bedroom by a wedding photo of him and is wife Tammy after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
  • Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit Gaza City, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
  • An Israeli soldier films a damaged building after a rocket  fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
  • A Palestinian man carries rubble near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike on it early morning in Gaza City Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • Yerechmiel Steinberg looks at the damages of his home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot, Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)
  • A Palestinian looks through a hole near a Hamas training camp following an Israeli air strike on it early morning in Gaza City Thursday, July 3, 2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The Israeli military rushed additional forces to its southern border with the Gaza Strip yesterday, vowing to halt a growing wave of rocket fire from the Palestinian territory, while new clashes erupted in east Jerusalem in response to the death of an Arab boy who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists.

Israel said the show of force on the Gaza border was a defense measure. But persistent rocket fire raised the prospects of a tough Israeli response, with the military saying more than 40 rockets or mortar shells were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza yesterday.

Tensions have been high since three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a massive manhunt that ended with the discovery of their bodies early this week. Israel has blamed Hamas for the abductions and launched a crackdown on the Islamic militant group in the West Bank, drawing rocket attacks out of Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in a near-daily cycle of retaliation.

The situation deteriorated further Wednesday after the burned body of a Palestinian youth, whose identity was confirmed yesterday as Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was found in a forest after he was seized near his home in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing the teen in a revenge attack over the deaths of the Israeli youths.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried yesterday to calm the situation, condemning Abu Khdeir’s killing and vowing to find the attackers.

“We don’t know yet the motives or the identities of the perpetrators, but we will. We will bring to justice the criminals responsible for this despicable crime whoever they may be,” Netanyahu said in a speech celebrating U.S. Independence Day at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. “Murder, riots, incitement, vigilantism, they have no place in our democracy.”

Following an especially intense barrage of rocket fire, including two projectiles that hit homes in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Israel sent tanks, artillery and ground forces to the border area early yesterday, defense officials said.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, called the move “defensive” and said he hoped the rocket fire would halt.

Israel has launched two large-scale operations in Gaza in recent years in response to rocket fire on its south, most recently in 2012. The fighting ended in a cease-fire.

The Israeli military said 34 of the rockets or mortar shells fired yesterday exploded inside Israel while the rest blew up prematurely inside Gaza or were shot down.

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