Israel’s army and militant factions in Gaza on Tuesday exchanged fire in the heaviest flare-up since the 2014 Gaza war, as Hamas and pro-Iran Islamic Jihad militants fired more than 50 rockets and mortars into southern Israel. No casualties were reported on both sides.
The US called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting over Hamas allegedly bombarding “Israeli military installations and settlements.”
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the attacks “are directed at innocent Israeli civilians,” adding, “the Palestinian leadership needs to be held accountable for what they’re allowing to happen in Gaza.”
Hamas and Islamic Jihad released a joint statement claiming responsibility for firing more than 50 rockets and mortars into southern Israel. They said that Tuesday’s attack came in response to Israel’s targeting of their installations in the past two days.
Israel responded by dropping several bombs, hitting 55 Gaza militant targets, including a cross-border tunnel under construction, munition storage warehouses, naval targets, and military compounds.
“There was a lot of mediation in the past hours,” Khalil Al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said in a statement, noting that the two factions would agree to a ceasefire agreement as long as Israel commits to it.
The hostility continued throughout Tuesday until early Wednesday morning. There were no reports of deaths on either side, but the Israeli army said that three soldiers were wounded, claiming that one mortar shell landed in a kindergarten before it opened and injured one person. No injuries were reported on the Palestinian side.
Gaza has been on edge in recent weeks as more than 110 Palestinians, including women and children, were killed by Israeli forces as thousands protested to demand their right to return, as well as demand lifting the blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas seized power of Gaza in 2007.
The flare-up is the largest since the 50-day Gaza conflict between July and August in 2014, leading to the deaths of over 2,200 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children, while 67 Israeli soldiers were killed along with six civilians, according to the UN Human Rights Council’s report in 2015.