Israel has warned it is ‘closer to war’ than ever as missile sirens blared throughout the night and military jets pounded targets in Gaza.
Israeli sirens warning of imminent rocket and mortar strikes wailed into the early hours on Wednesday, following Palestinian militants’ heaviest attack against Israel since the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel’s military said its aircraft hit 55 militant targets in the Gaza Strip, including military compounds, sheds of drones used for terror purpose and training facilities.
Action was taken after the militants had fired 70 rockets and mortar bombs into Israel on Tuesday, which injured three soldiers due to flying shrapnel.
As the fighting raged, Israel cautioned that it was closer to war with Hamas than it had been at any point in the past four years.
Israel warned it is ‘closer to war’ than ever as missile warning sirens continued to blare and military jets pounded targets in Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Pictured: Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepts rocket launched from Gaza
Israeli sirens warning of imminent rocket and mortar strikes wailed into the early hours on Wednesday, following Palestinian militants’ heaviest attack against Israel since 2014
Smoke rises following an Israeli strikes on Gaza City, early on Wednesday. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired at least 50 rockets and mortars into southern Israel on Tuesday
Israel Katz, the Israeli intelligence minister, said: ‘We are the closest to the threshold of war since Operation Protective Edge.
‘We don’t want it, and the other side doesn’t either, but we have our red lines.’
Following militant rocket and mortar launches throughout the day, countered by Israeli tank fire and air strikes, the pro-Iran Islamic Jihad militant group said a ceasefire agreement was possible, but Israel said reports of a deal were untrue.
‘Palestinian factions will abide by calm as long as (Israel) abides by it,’ Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said.
An Israeli official who declined to be named said: ‘The report about a ceasefire is incorrect.’ Israel has long said it would not tolerate such attacks.
There was no sign that calm would be restored by midnight local time, when the militants said the ceasefire could take effect.
Israeli planes attacked at least seven facilities belonging to armed group Islamic Jihad and the territory’s dominant Hamas movement after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a ‘powerful’ response.
Pictured: A rocket that was launched from Gaza lands in the Israeli city of Netivot
The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the firing and said it was in response to Israel’s killing of dozens of Palestinians since March 30, mainly in Gaza border protests.
The Israeli military said several of the projectiles fired from Gaza on Tuesday were shot down by its Iron Dome rocket interceptor and others landed in empty lots and farmland.
One exploded in the yard of a kindergarten, damaging its walls and scattering the playground with debris and shrapnel, about an hour before it was scheduled to open for the day.
There was no claim of responsibility from any of the militant groups in Gaza, but the attack comes after Islamic Jihad vowed to take revenge after three of its members were killed by Israeli tank shelling.
Palestinian militants had launched their heaviest barrages against Israel since the 2014 Gaza war before Israeli aircraft struck back (pictured) in a surge of fighting after weeks of border violence
Israel has struck 30 ‘military targets’ in the Gaza Strip in response to a wave of mortar attacks from the Palestinian enclave. Pictured: Smoke rises after an Israeli strike in Gaza City (left) and rockets fired from the enclave are intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system (right)
Israeli planes attacked at least seven facilities belonging to armed group Islamic Jihad and the territory’s dominant Hamas movement after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a ‘powerful’ response
Violence has soared along the Gaza frontier in recent weeks during which 116 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire at mass demonstrations for a right of return to ancestral lands now in Israel.
A Hamas spokesman defended Tuesday’s attacks as a ‘natural response to Israeli crimes’. In similarly phrased remarks, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said ‘the blood of our people is not cheap’.
Gaza residents said at least seven training or security facilities belonging to Islamic Jihad and Hamas were hit in the Israeli air strikes.
Plumes of smoke and dust rose from the target sites. The powerful explosions shook buildings nearby, causing panic among rush hour crowds on streets and in markets. The Gazan Ministry of Education said shrapnel from one missile flew into a school.
Violence has soared along the Gaza frontier in recent weeks during which 116 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire at mass demonstrations for a right of return to ancestral lands now in Israel. Pictured: An Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip today
Gaza residents said at least seven training or security facilities belonging to Islamic Jihad and Hamas were hit in the Israeli air strikes
A barrage of 25 mortar shells were fired into southern Israel on Tuesday, its army has claimed – hours after soldiers killed a Palestinian with tankfire. Israeli media reported that one of shells landed near a kindergarten (pictured) shortly before it opened
The Israeli military said it was ‘carrying out activities in the Gaza Strip’, without elaborating.
Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he was deeply concerned by ‘the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel’.
Calling for restraint by all parties, he said at least one of the mortar bombs ‘hit in the immediate vicinity of a kindergarten and could have killed or injured children’.
Amid international condemnation for its use of lethal force at the mass demonstrations, Israel said many of the dead were militants and that the army was repelling attacks on the border fence. Palestinians and their supporters say most of the protesters were unarmed civilians and Israel was using excessive force against them.
The attack came hours after a Palestinian who approached the border fence with what the Israeli army said an ‘intention of carrying out an attack’ was killed by tankfire. Grieving relatives held a funeral (pictured) for the Palestinian, Mohammed al-Radeia, 30, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday
Most of the mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system but some landed in open areas with no injuries reported, officials said. A man holds shrapnel from mortar shells that landed near a kindergarten in Kibbutz
Israeli troops fire tear gas as they clash with Palestinian youth in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah in West Bank after they stormed the camp yesterday
At least 121 Palestinians have been killed during weeks of unrest since March 30, when Palestinians began calling to be allowed to return to their historic homelands inside Israel. Pictured: Clashes near Ramallah yesterday
Organisers of the Palestinian border protests launched a boat from Gaza on Tuesday in a challenge to Israel’s maritime blockade of the enclave.
‘I want to make a future for myself, I want to live,’ said Ehab Abu Armana, 28, before he and 14 other protesters boarded the boat. The Israeli navy was widely expected to stop the vessel, which the organisers said would be accompanied for a short distance by several other boats.
More than two million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but, citing security concerns, maintains tight control of its land and sea borders, which has reduced its economy to a state of collapse.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014 and Israeli settlements built on occupied territory which Palestinians seek for a state have expanded.