The Israeli military said the attacks destroyed two suspected Hamas weapons warehouses and vehicles that were in the process of transporting weapons and explosives.
The strikes came one day after three Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack in the West Bank and Palestinian militants fired homemade Qassam rockets at Israeli towns from locations in Gaza. The Israeli military said the targets in Gaza were small factories that were manufacturing and storing the Qassam missiles.
Witnesses at the scene of one of the air strikes said two Israeli missiles exploded on a street crowded with Palestinian school children, the Associated Press reported. Hundreds of residents carried charred pieces of a destroyed vehicle and chanted, “Revenge, revenge.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei called the Israeli strikes “aggression” but Israeli officials said they were responding to terrorist attacks.
“The Israeli military will continue to act to foil terror attacks, capture murderers and liquidate terror organizations,” Sharon said in a speech to parliament.
The Associated Press reported that leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Syria vowed revenge for the air strikes.
“The two movements agreed to confront the Zionist aggression on our people in Palestine and to urge all (Palestinian) factions and resistance forces to coordinate among each other to confront this aggression,” the militant leaders said in a statement.
Sharon said Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was responsible for attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
“Israel is determined to bring about his removal from the political arena,” Sharon said Monday.
Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sharon’s remarks were “a speech of continuing the use of the most disproportionate use of force against Palestinians and a speech that was determined to undermine hope, peace and reconciliation.”