Continued from page 1

Two Palestinian men in Gaza were killed early Tuesday in an airstrike, which Israel said was in response to rocket fire. In all, at least 45 rockets fell on southern Israel Tuesday, Rosenfeld said.

Residents in the town of Sderot, next to Gaza, were told to stay close to shelters, and a college there had to cancel its graduation ceremony.

Late Tuesday, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said an explosion in a house killed a child and injured 3 others.

Gaza officials initially blamed Israel, but residents there said apparently a rocket fired by militants at Israel fell short and hit the house.

The flare-up in violence is the most serious in months, and has threatened an informal cease-fire that has largely held for the past three years. Hamas, which has mostly stayed out of violence, claimed responsibility for some of the rocket fire.

In another development Tuesday, vandals torched and scrawled graffiti on a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, Israeli security officials said. Suspicion fell on radical Jewish settlers angry over the looming demolition of an unsanctioned settler enclave.

By July 1, the government has committed to destroying 30 apartments built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land. Acts of vandalism against Palestinian property have been expected ahead of that date, because radical settlers routinely attack Palestinian targets in retaliation for government settlement policy they oppose.

The Hebrew-language graffiti spray-painted on the mosque in Kfar Jabaa read, “Ulpana War” and “Price Tag,” the names of the outpost and the settler retaliation campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said authorities would act swiftly to bring the vandals to justice. “This is an act of intolerant and irresponsible lawbreakers,” he said.

Police said no suspects had been arrested in the predawn attack.

Israeli construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state is at the heart of the current peacemaking deadlock.

Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.