Gaza City (Palestinian Territories): Israeli air raids have killed seven Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip, prompting a massive barrage of retaliatory rocket fire, officials said.

Adham Abu Selmiya, spokesman for Gaza's emergency services, said five members of the Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad's armed wing, were killed and three critically wounded in a first Israeli attack.
As tit-for-tat fighting continued into the night, Israeli aircraft struck four more targets in Gaza on Saturday, witnesses and Palestinian officials said, killing two militants and wounding two allegedly preparing to fire a missile near Rafah, in the south of the strip.
   
A strike east of Gaza City caused no casualties, but one of two raids in the area of Khan Yunis, in the south, left an Islamic Jihad militant lightly injured, witnesses said.
   
As rockets and mortar shells pounded Israel, police said they were raising their national alert level to its second-highest.
   
The Israeli military said the Rafah raid "targeted a terrorist squad in the Southern Gaza strip responsible for the firing of military-use projectiles towards the Israeli home front."
   
It did not immediately comment on the other reported strikes.
   
Israeli media quoted hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is visiting Bosnia, as saying Israel was not looking for heightened conflict in the south but would not turn the other cheek.
   
"Israel is not seeking a confrontation with the Palestinians and does not want to escalate the current situation, but it will not tolerate barrage after barrage without retaliating," a newspaper's website quoted him as saying.
   
A spokesman for UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry, called for restraint.
   
"The recent escalations are very worrying. It's vital to de-escalate now, without any delay," spokesman Richard Miron said in a statement. "We strongly appeal for calm and an end
to violence and bloodshed."
   
The military said of the earlier raid that the air force fired on a "group of terrorists preparing to fire long-range rockets" and that the attack had "prevented the attempted firing."
   
It said the men had also been responsible for firing a Grad rocket into Israel on Wednesday that hit near the city of Ashdod, 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the Gaza border.

(Agencies)