JERUSALEM – The Israeli army carried out its largest air strike campaign in Gaza since the 2014 war, when Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel throughout the day, threatening to unleash a total war after weeks of increasing tensions along the volatile frontier.
Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an air strike in Gaza City, while three Israelis were injured by a rocket that landed in a residential house.
Israel said it was focused on attacking militant targets and was warning civilians in Gaza to keep their distance from certain sites. But even before the casualties report, heavy air strikes and rocket fire still marked a major setback after a long period of slow, generally low-level conflict.
"The Israeli army delivered its painful attack, strike against Hamas since the 2014 war and we will increase the strength of our attacks as much as necessary," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Saturday night, Hamas militants and Islamic Jihad in Gaza announced that they had agreed to a halt. the fire was mediated by Egypt, but the sirens that warned of incoming rockets were still howling in southern Israel early on Sunday and it was not clear if the ceasefire was maintained.
Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the latest Israeli departure, the third of the day, hit about 40 Hamas targets, including tunnels, logistics centers and a Hamas battalion headquarters. He said the escalation was the result of Hamas rocket attacks, its promotion of violence along the border and its campaign to launch incendiary comets and balloons that have devastated Israel's farmland and nature reserves.
"Our message to Hamas is that it can and will improve the intensity of our effort if necessary," he said. "What Hamas is doing is pushing them closer and closer to the edge of the abyss … Hamas will have to understand that you have to pay a price."
Later, witnesses reported that Israeli warplanes threw four bombs on an unfinished weapon built near a Hamas police and security compound in Gaza City, reducing the old structure to rubble. The four-story building is adjacent to a public park. The Gaza Ministry of Health said that two teenagers were killed in the strike and another ten were injured.
He was the first victim of the day. Hitting in the heart of Gaza City is usually only seen during full-blown conflicts, such as the 2014 war, and could indicate that there may be a new escalation.
The Israeli army did not have an immediate reaction to that attack, but said it aimed at a separate high-rise building in the northern Gaza Strip that was used as a Hamas urban warfare training facility. He said a tunnel had been dug under the building.
Soon after, Israeli medical officials said three Israelis were injured by a rocket that landed in a house in southern Israel. He said paramedics in the southern city of Sderot were treating a 52-year-old man with a chest wound, a 17-year-old girl with a facial wound and a 20-year-old woman with limb injuries. [19659012LassirenasllorarondurantelanocheydurantelamayorpartedeldíadelsábadoenelsurdeIsraelcuandoselanzaronoleadasdecohetesymorterosdesdeGazaenmediodelosataquesaéreosLosmilitaresdijeronqueidentificaronunos60lanzamientosdecohetesymorterosdesdeGazahaciaelterritorioisraelídeloscualesalrededorde10fueroninterceptadosporelsistemadedefensaaéreaIronDomeComomedidadeprecauciónlosmilitarescerraronunaplayapopularenelsurdeIsraelypusieronlimitacionesalasreunionesdegrandesmultitudesLapolicíaisraelídicequecuatrodelosproyectilescausarondaños
Israel has warned Hamas state in recent weeks that while no interest in getting involved in the kind of conflict that led the parties to wage three wars over the past decade, it will not. tolerate the continued efforts of Gaza militants to break the border and their campaign to devastate Israeli border communities with arson attacks.
Israel focused on the growing tension along its northern border in its efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military support point Syrian civil war, has been cautious of the growing hostilities in Gaza. But Netanyahu was also pressured to act from communities in southern Israel, which once again found themselves under rocket fire from Gaza as well as dealing with daily fires in the camp.
"We are ready to operate simultaneously in different theaters." Conricus said, referring to the double threats from Syria and Gaza. "It will be a challenge to fight on more than one border, but it is something we can do and we are willing to do."
Israel's military chief visited the border area to receive information and the Security Cabinet, Israel's main decision-making body, is expected to meet on Sunday to discuss new actions.
On Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza border for their almost weekly protest. A 15-year-old Palestinian who tried to climb the fence in Israel was shot dead. Later, the army said that an Israeli officer was seriously injured by a grenade thrown at him.
Gaza's Health Ministry said on Saturday that a 20-year-old boy beaten by gunfire on Friday during protests in the southern Gaza Strip also died of his injuries.
The Islamic militant group Hamas that governs Gaza has led the border protests aimed in part to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. The demonstrations have largely been fueled because of the general despair of the blockade, which has caused widespread economic difficulties.
More than 130 Palestinians, mostly unarmed, have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the protests began on March 30.
Israel says it defends its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attempts to penetrate the border fence and attack civilians and soldiers. Recently, it has been struggling to cope with the widespread fires caused by comets and incendiary balloons floating on the border.
In a statement, the military said Hamas' activities "violate Israeli sovereignty, endanger Israeli civilians and sabotage efforts aimed at helping civilians in Gaza."
In a relatively rare admission, Hamas said it fired rockets to deter Israel from taking further action. Most of Gaza's recent rockets have been fired by smaller factions, but Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it was an "immediate response" to "deliver the message."
The military said its planes also targeted two Hamas tunnels like other military compounds, including those involved in the production of comets and balloons. He said that the headquarters of the Hamas battalion in northern Gaza was completely destroyed and the images he launched showed a series of large explosions that left a large hole in the ground.
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