Published: Fri, August 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Pregnant mother and child killed as conflict between Israel, Hamas escalates

Pregnant mother and child killed as conflict between Israel, Hamas escalates

Israeli jets hit Gaza, again, flattening what Palestinians called a cultural center in the al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City.

Gaza militants fired some 200 rockets at Israel and the Israeli military carried out a similar number of airstrikes in Gaza in this latest round of violence.

Air raid sirens signaling incoming rocket fire wailed across southern Israel throughout Thursday, with warnings going off in the southern city of Beersheba for the first time since the 2014 war.

Israel denied there was a truce, but a senior Israeli official told Israel Radio that "quiet would be met with quiet".

Gaza has been controlled by the Islamist group Hamas for more than a decade, a period that has seen three wars between Israel and the Palestinian enclave.

Nearly 200 rockets and mortar shells were fired from within Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian movements at towns and villages in Israel, provoking a similar number of attacks by the Israeli Air Force. Among the dead were a woman, who was nine months pregnant, and her 18-month-old daughter. Seven people were wounded by Palestinian rockets and mortars that struck Israel.

Israeli Cabinet minister for construction and housing, Yoav Gallant, said that "whatever is needed to be done to defend our civilians and soldiers, will be done, no matter what would be the price in Gaza".

A long-range rocket fired from Gaza struck an uninhabited area outside the largest city in southern Israel on Thursday, Israeli police said, hours after a Palestinian official said an end to a surge in cross-border fighting could be near.

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Another unnamed Palestinian official confirmed to Reuters the truce had been reached, saying, "Egyptian efforts managed to restore calm between Palestinian factions and Israel that will end the current escalation". Local health officials said 18 bystanders were wounded by the blast. Palestinians have thrown explosive devices and opened fire at forces along the border in numerous instances over the past few months, the military said.

Rocket warning sirens sounded nearly non-stop in the southern Israeli towns and border communities near Gaza from sunset on Wednesday.

Gaza militants had earlier Thursday declared a halt to rocket fire and the lack of a strong response to the strike on the building later in the day suggested they were returning to it.

Strikingly, the word "respond", or any variation thereof, appears only in context of Hamas responding to Israeli strikes: "Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza for 11 years, has been trying to change the balance of deterrence in the area, responding to every Israeli strike against Gaza". Some rockets landed in the communities, and many others were shot down by the Iron Dome, which is created to intercept only rockets headed towards population centers.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the United Nations had engaged with Egypt in an "unprecedented effort" to avoid serious conflict, but cautioned that "the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people".

Rocket sirens were still sounding in Israeli neighborhoods on Wednesday evening, while strikes in Gaza continued.

As Israeli airstrikes persist and the living situation gravely worsens, Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of a full-blown humanitarian crisis due to Israel's 10-year siege. The Israeli army has killed at least 158 Palestinians during those protests, and a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.

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