At least three Palestinian gunmen and four civilians have been killed in Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, there has been an escalation of military activity on both sides.

Israeli warplanes launched a wave of air strikes on the Gaza Strip, backing up tanks and infantry on the ground. In one incident, Palestinians say an Israeli tank shell hit a house, killing an Islamic Jihad militant, his mother and 19-year-old sister.

Israel aircraft also hit two Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza City bringing angry crowds onto the streets.

Israel said the raids were in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli border communities.

"It must be remembered that the civilian population in the south has been the target of rocket barrage after rocket barrage, day after day, week after week, month after month. This cannot continue," said government spokesman Mark Regev.

During the fighting Thursday, Palestinians fired a rocket at the major Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. It flew more than 16 kilometers, one of the longest distances ever for a Palestinian rocket. Until now, only small towns and farming communities have been within range of Palestinian rockets.

Islamic Jihad and another militant group, the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed joint responsibility for the rocket attack.

Islamic Jihad official Ahmed Houry said the group would use all means at its disposal to strike at Israel.