Though the attack caused no damage or injuries, it was a significant escalation and set the stage for a tough Israeli reprisal.
Hamas is demanding concessions that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, afraid of losing his right-wing electoral base, will not want to concede in this critical time just before parliamentary elections on April 9.
Smoke and flame are seen during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, March 15, 2019.
Explosions could be heard throughout the night in Gaza and fireballs lit the sky. Although the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group was first blamed, a spokesman for the group said the accusations were "baseless lies and claims". There were no immediate reports of casualties. Rocket attacks from Gaza sent residents of southern Israel to shelters, wounding dozens and killing a Palestinian laborer from the occupied West Bank.
The usual suspects - Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad - each denied their respective terror groups were behind the projectile attacks.
A delegation from Egypt, which has acted as mediator between Israel and Hamas, was in Gaza before the strikes and reportedly left after warnings.
"The time has come to defeat Hamas once and for all", he said.
It comes as the one-year anniversary of mass protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border fence approaches on March 30.
There were also protests Thursday organized in Gaza before the attacks by demonstrators upset with the current state of living conditions in the territory.
Yaakov Amidror, a retired major general and former national security adviser, said he believed Netanyahu was "experienced and sober enough" that electoral pressure would not be a factor in determining his response.
Palestinian news media reported strikes throughout Gaza, from Rafah in the south to the north of the densely populated coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire coming out of the territory. The assessment indicated that Hamas had no intention of escalating violence with Israel.
But with Gaza's economy in tatters, the group has been seeking to preserve calm.
The sirens were last activated in Tel Aviv two years ago, but ended up being a false alarm. In a statement early Friday, the army said "we can confirm" that Hamas carried out the rocket attack.
The air strikes, the heaviest in five months, hit about 100 military targets belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, the military said. It's a first since Israel's 2014 campaign in Gaza.
Naftali Bennett, a member of Netanyahu's security cabinet who is vying with him for rightist-votes in the looming ballot, issued a statement demanding the assassination of Hamas chiefs.