Published: Sun, July 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Violence flares as Israel strikes Gaza, Hamas fires rockets

Violence flares as Israel strikes Gaza, Hamas fires rockets

Hamas on Saturday said the barrage of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli territory overnight was sacked by the "resistance" to "stop Israeli escalation".

The remarks were made via in a statement released several hours after Israeli warplanes launched a predawn attack against 40 purported Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip.

Members of the Palestinian civil defense search for survivors in a building that was hit by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on July 14, 2018.

The attacks come amid an escalation of violence in the region in recent months.

Israel Defence Forces said almost 100 rockets and mortar shells were fired in less than 24 hours, setting off warning sirens in border communities.

On Friday, Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians, including a teenager, and wounded hundreds of others in border clashes.

Israel said some 100 rockets were launched from Gaza at southern Israel.

Three Israelis were reportedly injured when one of the rockets landed on a residential home.

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Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Gaza city, said that a house in Khan Younis belonging to a commander of the al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, was hit in one of the strikes, causing two injuries. The army said protesters attacked soldiers with grenades, bombs, Molotov cocktails, and rocks.

"We are talking about the biggest offensive strikes since Protective Edge", Air Force Brigadier General Tzvika Haimovic told journalists, referring to Israel's name for its 2014 operation in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli fighter pilots struck a five-story building in the Shati section of the Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City that allegedly served as the "Palestinian National Library", originally intended for use as a public building but converted instead by Hamas to an urban terrorist training base, complete with a tunnel dug beneath for specialize subterranean warfare training.

With Israel focused on rising tension along its northern border in its efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in post-civil war Syria, it has been wary of escalating hostilities in Gaza.

The IDF said aircraft had attacked "an offensive terror tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip, in addition to several terror sites in military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip, among them complexes used to prepare arson terror attacks and a Hamas terror organization training facility".

Even as the airstrikes were being carried out, the IDF said rockets were fired toward Israel.

On Monday, Israel announced it was shutting down the Kerem Shalom border crossing - the Strip's main crossing for commercial goods - in response to the endless stream of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons that have been flown into southern Israel, sparking fires that have burned thousands of acres of land and caused millions of shekels in damages.

Clashes in eastern Gaza with the Israeli army forces resumed Friday as part of rallies and protests organised since March 30. It said 70 others were wounded, at least 20 by live fire, and others by tear gas.

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