Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel dealt 'harshest blow' in years to Gaza militants

Both sides warn the other against any further military escalation after most significant exchange of hostilities since 2014 war 

Wednesday 30 May 2018 18:55
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Gaza militants pelt Israel with rockets in biggest attack in years

The Israel-Gaza border is quiet again after the most significant round of hostilities between Hamas and Israel in four years.

A de facto ceasefire came into effect on Wednesday after Hamas said a truce had been brokered by Egypt following the biggest attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip since the 2014 war.

The understanding to end the violence, which began on Tuesday, did not go beyond a “restoration of calm by both sides”, a Palestinian official said.

Israel did not formally acknowledge any ceasefire with the militant Hamas and smaller organisation Islamic Jihad, and both sides warned the other that any further military escalation would give rise to a new round of fighting.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday afternoon that Israel had delivered on its promise to deal with the Hamas provocation with “force”, saying the Israel Defence Force (IDF) had dealt the Gaza militants the “harshest blow” in years.

Tuesday’s barrage of at least 25 mortars and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip hit communities in southern Israel during the morning rush hour. Significant damage was caused to a nursery school shortly before it was due to open.

Israel responded with tank and air strikes on more than 50 military targets in the coastal enclave, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad jointly claimed responsibility for the initial attack on Tuesday evening.

Three Israeli soldiers were lightly injured by debris, the IDF said. There has been no confirmation of damage, injuries or deaths in Gaza.

While mortars and missiles continued to fall on either side of the border until the early hours of Wednesday, both Hamas and Israel seemed to be wary of sparking a wider conflict: Hamas did not use its long-range arsenal, and IDF targets in Gaza were seemingly evacuated ahead of time.

According to Hamas, the strikes were retaliation for the deaths of at least 116 Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers in protests at the border over Gaza’s escalating humanitarian crisis and the US’s embassy move to Jerusalem.

Israeli drones fire tear gas as clashes erupt at Gaza-Israel border protests

Israel says the 11-year-old blockade on the Gaza Strip – put in place after Hamas seized control of the area in 2007 – is a necessary security measure.

Critics, however, say the blockade amounts to collective punishment for Gaza’s two million residents, most of whom are coping with a collapsed economy, inadequate healthcare, a lack of drinking water and lengthy electricity blackouts.

News agencies contributed to this report

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