Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza After Violence Flares

Israeli air strikes hit Gaza after bloody border protests

Israeli air strikes hit Gaza after bloody border protests

Three civilians were wounded when rockets struck sites in the southern city of Sderot, including a synagogue.

Hamas's Barhoum said the group was responsible for the barrage against Israel and that it was carried out "in response to the Israeli air strikes".

"Our message to Hamas is that we can and will enhance the intensity of our effort if needed", Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus warned.

Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out * a href="https://newswire.storyful.com/storylines/*/stories/205481" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener" *air and mortar strikes on multiple sites in the Gaza Strip which they said belonged to Hamas.

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed and 25 others were reportedly injured in the airstrikes in what Israeli officials call the most significant operations since 2014.

The "March of Return" protests have also seen Palestinians fly airborne incendiary devices toward Israeli territory, sparking hundreds of fires in southern Israel and causing millions of shekels in estimated damages. It said 70 others were wounded, at least 20 by live fire, and others by tear gas.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency an Israeli strike had hit an empty building in Gaza City and that the casualties were passers-by.

The military said its jets targeted two Hamas tunnels as well as other military compounds, including those involved in the production of the kites and balloons.

Several hours after the announcement, the Israeli military said Palestinians fired two mortar bombs towards Israel and that it responded by striking the weapon used in the attack in the southern Gaza Strip.

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Rocket warning sirens went off in the coastal city of Ashkelon, about 12 kilometres from the enclave, further north than in recent rocket attacks.

Israel and armed groups in Gaza have reached a ceasefire after a surge in cross-border violence, according to a Palestinian official. The army said protesters attacked soldiers with grenades, bombs, Molotov cocktails, and rocks.

"There are three factors occurring that we view seriously and can not allow to continue", he said, adding that this was the largest daytime Israeli strike on Gaza since the 2014 Gaza War.

In a relatively rare admission, Hamas said it fired the rockets to deter Israel from further action.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

They coincided with mass demonstrations along the border which saw thousands of Palestinians express their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel - as well as demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

The Israeli Air Force has struck dozens of targets in the Strip in retaliation.

Since then, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza which it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas. Most recently, it has been struggling to cope with the widespread fires caused by the incendiary kites and balloons floating over the border.

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