Israel-Gaza violence erupts after killings

Israel carried out air strikes when Sunday night's firefight erupted

Israel carried out air strikes when Sunday night’s firefight erupted

Violence has flared between Israel and Gaza, a day after seven militants and an Israeli soldier were killed amid an undercover Israeli operation in Gaza.

Scores of rockets were launched at Israel, hitting an empty bus and seriously injuring a 19-year-old who was nearby, Israeli medics said.

Israel launched a series of air strikes in response. Two Palestinians were killed, Gaza’s health ministry said.

A militant commander and an Israeli soldier were among the dead on Sunday.

Palestinians said an Israeli unit travelling in a civilian vehicle had killed the Hamas commander.

According to Palestinian sources, the Israeli unit was about 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip, which borders Israel, when militants from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, stopped the car.

The group’s military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said the Israelis opened fire, killing a local commander, Nur Barakeh.

The incident is reported to have happened east of Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.

A gun battle erupted and Israeli tanks and aircraft opened fire in the area, witnesses said.

Six of the Palestinians killed belonged to Hamas and the seventh was a member of the militant Popular Resistance Committees, AFP news agency cited Palestinian officials as saying.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said a member of the special unit involved was killed and another was lightly wounded.

In the wake of the clashes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his visit to Paris for events to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One and returned to Israel, his office said.

Due to the secrecy of the operation, Israel has not revealed specific details about the mission.

The IDF said though that the operation was “not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security”.

The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says that according to a former Israeli general, the incident was likely to have been an intelligence-gathering operation that went wrong.

The exposure of such an operation by Israeli Special Forces inside Gaza would be extremely rare, he says.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, denounced the incident as a “cowardly Israeli attack”.

IDF chief Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot said the Israeli unit had carried out “a very meaningful operation to Israel’s security”, without giving further details. -BBC

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