Israel and Hamas exchange fire after day of deadly protests

Israel and Hamas exchange fire after day of deadly protests

Israel has targeted the Gaza Strip with a series of strikes.

Two more Palestinians were killed and one was wounded in an explosion on Sunday in a building in Gaza, health officials said according to Reuters.

The Israeli military said Friday's protesters were throwing burning tyres, stones, explosive devices and fire bombs at its soldiers and that one of its officers was wounded by a Palestinian grenade hurled across the border fence.

Since then Gaza militants launched aound 60 rockets and mortars into Israel, causing minor damage to a synagogue and reportedly wounding two Israelis who are not in a critical state.

Palestinian media said IDF planes hit targets at several sites around the Gaza strip, including a Hamas terror base.

"A tunnel was dug under the building and used for underground warfare training".

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The shootings came as thousands of Palestinians gathered to take part in the weeks-long Great March of Return rallies, which are being carried out every Friday since March of this year.

Egypt is now engaging in diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire but that possibility remains uncertain. According to the IDF, the strikes also targeted Hamas naval facilities.

In a statement, the military said Hamas' activities "violate Israeli sovereignty, endanger Israeli civilians and sabotage Israel's humanitarian efforts that aim to help Gazan civilians".

"Allowing Hamas to dictate the terms of the ceasefire after two months of arson attacks and hundreds of rockets on the residents of Gaza border communities is a serious mistake".

The IDF spokesman said the aim of the operation was to "restore a sense of security" and that the military would "respond as necessary" to a wide range of scenarios.

He said the escalation was the result of the sustained Hamas rocket attacks, its fomenting of violence along the border and its campaign of launching incendiary kites and balloons that have devastated Israeli farmlands and nature reserves.

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Shortly after, Israeli medical officials said three Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a house in southern Israel.

A Palestinian official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said Egypt and other worldwide players were holding contacts with Israel and Gaza to restore calm.

The majority of those killed were involved in protests and clashes but others were seeking to breach or damage the border fence.

Bennett said that the Israeli military "must be instructed to act with force, sophistication and thoroughness".

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhu said the rocket fire was meant to "send a clear message" to Israel and to "force the enemy to stop the escalation". The Israeli military aggression killed almost 2,200 Palestinians and injured over 11,100 others.

Rocket warning sirens went off in the coastal city of Ashkelon, about 12 kilometres from the enclave, further north than in recent rocket attacks.

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