Israeli PM warns Hamas will face a 'wall of steel'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told community leaders in a southern border town that Israel is engaged in a "lengthy battle" following a weekend during which the military struck several Hamas sites, and the militant group retaliated with rocket and mortar fire.

Benjamin Netanyahu visits southern towns bordering Gaza as informal ceasefire continues

Hamas militants fired rockets toward Israel on Saturday in Gaza City. The Israeli military carried out airstrikes in an exchange that threatened to spark a wider conflagration after weeks of tensions along the volatile border. (Sami Shehada/Associated Press)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told community leaders in a southern border town that Israel is engaged in a "lengthy battle" following a weekend during which the military struck several Hamas sites in Gaza, and the militant group retaliated with rocket and mortar fire. 

Netanyahu's visit to Sderot on Monday came a day after an informal ceasefire took hold to end 24 hours of fighting with Hamas militants that had threatened to devolve into all-out war. 

Israel pounded Hamas targets in Gaza in its most massive bombardment since the 2014 war, while militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel that halted daily life in the area. 

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a home in Sderot.

Netanyahu visited a local kindergarten and pledged that Israel would put an end to the rocket fire and a Gaza militant campaign of sending incendiary kites and balloons across the border that have ignited fires damaging Israeli farms and nature reserves.

He said Hamas will face a "wall of steel" if it keeps up its aggression against Israel, but added that the threat wouldn't disappear overnight.

"It doesn't end in one strike," Netanyahu said. "We know we are engaged in a lengthy battle."

On Saturday, the Israeli military struck several Hamas military compounds and flattened a number of its training camps. Hamas retaliated with more than 200 rockets and mortars toward Israeli communities. 

After Hamas accepted an Egypt-mediated ceasefire late Saturday, the situation calmed down, but flaming kites and balloons continued to waft over into Israel, with the military signalling a new policy of striking back immediately.

The government is under pressure from local communities to show zero tolerance to this new threat, and Netanyahu told local leaders he had instructed the military to halt it completely.

On Sunday evening, the military announced that following a "situation assessment," it had reinforced its Iron Dome batteries in central Israel and in the country's south, and called up a small number of reserve army soldiers. The Iron Dome shot down more than 20 projectiles over the weekend.

Tensions have been running high along the Israel-Gaza border for several months. A ceasefire at the end of May followed the largest flare-up of violence between the sides in four years.