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Israel moves troops toward Gaza border after rocket fire

July 3, 2014 7:38 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2014 1:05 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel's army said Thursday it has moved a small number of reinforcements toward the border with Gaza, following an uptick in rocket fire and airstrikes overnight.

The deployment also comes amid rising tension after a Palestinian boy was kidnapped and killed, apparently in revenge for the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

"We are moving and we have moved forces in order to serve defense activities and forward preparation, but we have no interest in escalation," army spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner told journalists.

The reinforcements were reserve officers at "headquarter level, not in the field," Lerner said, and were purely a defensive measure.

"We have no interest in deepening the conflict with Gaza," he said.

More than 30 rockets were fired on Wednesday and Thursday from Gaza, the army said.

Lerner said Hamas itself fired some of the rockets.

Israel responded with airstrikes, wounding 11 Palestinians in the Strip.

Some rockets landed in southern Israel, causing damage to buildings but no casualties.

Hamas warned Israel it would "pay the price" for the abduction and killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The murder triggered protests in Shufat, where Abu Khdeir's family lives.

Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli riot police, raging from dawn on Wednesday until the early hours on Thursday, also spreading to many other areas in east Jerusalem.

Over 170 Palestinians were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and there were reports of live fire.

Abu Khdeir's killing is believed to be a revenge attack for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers who went missing on June 12.

Israel blamed Hamas for abducting and killing the three Israelis and waged a crushing arrest campaign against the movement's West Bank network, which resulted in the deaths of at least 6 Palestinians and saw over 600 people detained.

Hamas has denied allegations it was behind the kidnapping.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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