Surge in Gaza violence intensifies

PIsrael and militants in the Gaza Strip have stepped up their attacks on each other, in some of the most intense exchanges of recent years.

The army says Palestinian militants have fired 600 rockets into Israeli territory over the weekend. Many were intercepted but three Israelis died.

Israel says it has hit 260 targets in the Gaza Strip and threatened further “massive” strikes.

Gaza officials say 11 Palestinians have been killed since Friday.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to “continue its massive strikes on terror elements in the Gaza Strip”.

Israeli forces around Gaza would be “stepped up with tank, artillery and infantry forces”, he added.

The flare-up comes despite a truce agreed last month. Egypt and the United Nations have recently been trying to broker a longer-term ceasefire.

It began on Friday, during protests in Gaza against the blockade of the area – which Israel says is needed to stop weapons reaching militants.

A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the boundary fence. Israel retaliated with an air strike that killed two militants.

The rocket barrage from Gaza began on Saturday morning. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system shot down dozens of the rockets, but a number of homes in Israeli towns and villages were hit.

Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, 10km (six miles) north of Gaza, has said it has treated more than 100 civilians in the last 24 hours.

Out of those, three people died and three more were seriously wounded – including an elderly Israeli woman.

Those killed were a 58-year-old man struck in a garden and two others at a factory, Israeli media say.

Israel air strikes targeted sites belonging to the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Saturday and Sunday.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has said the Palestinian dead include a woman and her 14-month-old daughter.

But Israel says the mother and baby may have been killed by a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said they had killed a Hamas commander named Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari in one of their strikes.

The sites destroyed include a multi-storey building in Gaza City, which Israel said included Hamas intelligence offices. –BBC

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