Israel claims it has killed another terrorist leader in Gaza in an airstrike which Palestinians say left five children dead.
Eight members of the Abu Malhous family were killed in the strike on their family home in Deir al Balah, the Palestinian health ministry claimed.
Israel alleged in reply that Rasmi Abu Malhous, who was among the dead, was a commander of Islamic Jihad rocket crews in the Gaza Strip.
A ceasefire was declared in the early hours of this morning as Israel said its operation against Islamic Jihad was ‘over’.
However, Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into Israel just hours after it took effect.
Explosion: Smoke rises from Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike in the early hours of this morning. Israeli’s military said it had killed another Islamic Jihad commander
Wounded: A baby wearing an oxygen mask is treated by Palestinian medical workers in the Gaza Strip today amid claims that five children had died in the Israeli raid
Israel has killed at least 18 militants in two days of intense fighting, most of them from the Islamic Jihad group.
The Israeli government has hailed the operation as a victory, saying the militants were storing weapons at their homes – making the properties legitimate targets.
The country’s foreign minister Israel Katz said the policy of targeted killings had ‘proved itself’ and would continue.
‘All of our operations were measured, proportionate and focused only on military assets belonging to the Islamic Jihad,’ said lieutenant colonel Jonathan Conricus.
‘[Abu Malhous] was an Islamic Jihad commander and he, like many others, have the tactic of hiding ammunition and military infrastructure in their own residence.
‘Of course we try always to minimise the amount of non-combatants killed or injured.’
Israel claims Rasmi was the commander of a rocket unit and said the raid had been carried out before the ceasefire took effect.
Injured: Palestinian medical workers tend to wounded children in Deir al-Balah on Thursday
Retaliation: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel last night during heavy exchanges of fire across the border after targeted Israeli killings
However, his relatives disputed that Rasmi was affiliated with Islamic Jihad at all, saying he had been a military police officer for the Palestinian Authority.
The Gaza health ministry said five children were among eight members of the Abu Malhous family who were killed in the raid.
Islamic Jihad said it had agreed a ceasefire after forcing Israel to halt its targeted killings, but Israel denied making any such concession.
Israel killed senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata and his wife Asma in a targeted strike early Tuesday, prompting barrages of tit-for-tat rocket fire and air strikes.
The cross-border fighting is the heaviest in months, and air raid sirens sounded in Israel again this morning despite the ceasefire.
In recent days Islamic Jihad has fired 450 rockets towards Israel, which responded with scores of air strikes.
Gaza’s ruling group Hamas, which is much larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, stayed out of the latest escalation – an indication that it would be brief.
Missile defence: Israel’s Iron Dome system fires interception missiles as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip last night, as seen from Ashkelon in Israel
Target: The home of Islamic Jihad field commander Baha Abu Al-Atta, one of the militants who were killed, is seen after it was hit by an Israeli strike in Gaza City
The non-stop air-raid sirens in Israel forced schools to close and people to remain indoors.
Most of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in open areas or were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
However, at least three people were lightly wounded from shrapnel or shattered glass.
Palestinian officials say 34 people have been killed in total, including eight children and three women.
Israeli defence minister Naftali Bennett warned Gaza militants they were not safe anywhere.
‘A terrorist who tries to harm Israeli citizens will not be able to sleep soundly, not in his home and not in his bed and not in any hiding place,’ he said.