ISRAELI forces have continued to pound ‘militant’ targets across the Gaza Strip – hours after a ceasefire was supposed to be in effect.
The stand-off was brokered by Egypt on Monday but shortly afterwards air raid sirens were heard in southern Israel and rocket fire reported from Gaza.
AFP or licensors The air attacks came hours after an apparent ceasefire was agreed on
At least 30 rockets were fired into Israel on Monday, according to Israel, but nearly all of them were said to have been intercepted or landed in uninhabited areas.
Massive explosions sent clouds of smoke billowing above Gaza as the night skies were lit by flames.
Gaza militants then fired rockets into Israel in what threatened to escalate into a major conflict, just two weeks before the Israeli election.
Schools in southern Israel were cancelled for the day and the military massed forces on the Gaza border and imposed restrictions on civilian public gatherings.
That moves came after dozens of rockets were fired toward communities in the area, including one that struck a house in the town of Sderot.
The Israeli air force pounded militant sites of Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the smaller Islamic Jihad group.
The targets included a multi-storey building in Gaza City that Israel said had served as a Hamas military intelligence headquarters and the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said several Palestinians were wounded in the airstrikes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to return from Washington later in the day and head directly to military headquarters in Tel Aviv for consultations on the next steps.
He faces the difficult task of delivering a tough blow to Hamas while avoiding protracted fighting that could work against him on election day.
Netanyahu has come under heavy criticism from both allies and opponents for what they say has been an ineffective policy of containing Gaza militants.
He has conducted indirect cease-fire talks through Egyptian mediators in recent months, and even allowed the delivery of millions of dollars of Qatari aid to Hamas to ease harsh conditions in Gaza.
After a meeting with President Donald Trump and before leaving Washington, Netanyahu indicated the election would not deter him from acting.
“We have responded very, very forcefully. Hamas needs to know that we will not hesitate to go in and take all necessary steps regardless of anything, any date, other than Israel’s security needs,” he said.
The cross-border fighting was triggered by a surprise rocket fired early Monday from Gaza that slammed into a house in central Israel and wounded seven people.
The rocket hit the home of Robert and Susan Wolf, originally from London, who had their children and grandchildren staying with them.
The family were woken by rocket sirens and escaped moments before the house was struck.
“If we hadn’t got to the bomb shelter in time I would be burying all my family,” Mr Wolf said. “We would all have been dead if we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
Seven people were wounded in the blast, including his wife, who suffered a shrapnel wound to the head, and his six-month-old granddaughter who lightly injured.
None of the injuries are life-threatening, Israeli authorities said.
The Israeli military said it was a self-manufactured rocket with a range of 75 miles, making it one of the deepest strikes ever carried out by Hamas.
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The military mobilised two armour and infantry brigades and drafted some reserve forces before striking back at militant sites in Gaza.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the last decade. Although neither side appears to have an interest in another war, fighting could easily spin out of control.
The 2014 conflict lasted 50 days and ended with over 2,000 Palestinian deaths, including hundreds of civilians, and 73 killed on the Israeli side.
Getty – Contributor A woman stands in the rubble after Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes in Gaza City
EPA Israeli soldiers work next to their tanks near the Israel-Gaza border
AFP or licensors The cross-border fighting was triggered by a surprise rocket attack on Monday
Reuters Palestinian boys at the site of one of the targeted buildings
Getty – Contributor Israel and Hamas have fought three bloody wars in the last decade
Getty – Contributor Palestinians inspect a demolished building after Israeli warplanes hit Gaza Cit