The Israeli air force has been on high alert since 7 July, as part of a major operation aimed at stopping the launch of rockets from the Gaza Strip.

By the morning of 8 July, air force aircraft had hit more than 70 targets in the central Gaza Strip. Most of these were hidden launchers and storage for rockets, the service says.

The air force launched the actionin response to a heavy barrage of rockets launched into Israel.

Gaza Strike - Rex Features

Rex Features

The air force's Rafael-produced Iron Dome air defence system intercepted many rockets calculated to have "kill trajectories", while others expected to land in unpopulated areas were ignored.

"In light of the escalation in the Gaza Strip and the firing of rockets on southern communities in Israel over the past few nights, there have been many attack sorties carried out by fighter squadrons," says Col Nir Barkan, commander of Ramat David air base. "We are on high alert for any mission for which we will be needed.”

The escalation in hostilities follows several tense weeks in southern Israel.