Senior IDF Officer: We're Close to War in Gaza

Senior IDF Officer: We're Close to War in Gaza

Senior IDF Officer: We're Close to War in Gaza

The cross-border violence comes soon after a delegation of senior Hamas officials visited Gaza to discuss a ceasefire agreement with Israel proposed by Egypt and the UN.

In another round of escalation, Israel responded to rocket fire by striking what it said were Hamas militant targets in Gaza. Fighter planes attacked more than 20 targets in military compounds and in a Hamas training camp.

Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations envoy for the Middle East conflict who has been seeking to negotiate a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, said he was "deeply alarmed" and called on all sides to "step back from the brink".

Gaza health ministry said two of the victims were a pregnant Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old child, another victim was a Palestinian man. The ministry said Khammash was also pregnant. Israeli medics reported that four wounded people were taken to hospital.

A statement by Hamas' military force said it was responsible for the rockets.

They also demand an end to Israel's 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave's economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

It alleged that Hamas fighters fired live rounds at "civil engineering equipment", used as part of a "anti-tunnel barrier'" which is being built along the barrier with Gaza, causing damage, before the army fire a tank shell at a Hamas post. Israel Railways has said that trains will not be running on the line between Ashkelon and Sderot.

As alert sirens continued to go off in southern Israel, Hamas issued a statement saying "We are delivering on our promise". Hamas militants responded with a cross-border fusillade that sent Israelis scrambling for air raid shelters.

Yoav Galant, Israeli cabinet minister for construction and housing, said that "whatever is needed to be done to defend our civilians and soldiers will be done, no matter what would be the price in Gaza".

The Palestinian news agency WAFA, citing health sources, reported at least 12 Palestinians were wounded.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for the escalation, citing the killing of two Hamas gunmen on Tuesday in northern Gaza which he described as unprovoked. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Gaza sniper during this period. Since then, the group has fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014, resulting in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians and leaving much of Gaza is ruin.

Tension along the Israel-Gaza border has escalated since late March, when Hamas launched what would become regular mass protests along Israel's perimeter fence with Gaza.

On Wednesday, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the Hamas rocket fire and called for both sides to step away from the brink.

"Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reassured the mayor of Sderot and the heads of the regional councils in the vicinity of the Gaza border that "we will do what needs to be done" to restore calm to region".

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