Palestinians fired dozens of rockets into Israel from Gaza today and an Israeli air strike killed a militant in a surge of violence after the Emir of Qatar embraced the enclave's Hamas leadership with a visit.
Hamas claimed responsibility for some of the rocket and mortar bomb attacks, raising questions among Israelis over whether it had been emboldened by the Qatari visit yesterday that challenged the Islamist group's diplomatic isolation.
Hamas largely held its fire when other militant factions, including jihadi groups, had launched cross-border rocket attacks in recent months.
For its part, Hamas accused Israel of stepping up its attacks in the Gaza Strip to vent its anger over Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's visit and pledged to "continue to hold a gun ... until Palestine is liberated".
A Hamas militant was killed today in a second day of air strikes which Israel said were intended to stop rocket firings. Yesterday, Israel killed three Hamas members, saying they had either launched attacks or were preparing to do so.
In southern Israel, three agricultural workers were wounded when a Palestinian rocket exploded near them.
Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, a military spokeswoman, said 68 projectiles were fired at Israel by midday and that the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted seven of them. She said several homes were damaged by Palestinian fire.
Israel kept schools shut in communities near the Gaza border and residents were urged to remain indoors.