Gaza border sees heaviest fighting since 2014 war

Frederick Owens
November 13, 2018

Six Palestinians were killed in less than 24 hours as Israeli strikes targeted militants, while dozens of residents were injured in Israel following rockets and mortar rounds from the Gaza Strip.

Israel launched more airstrikes on Gaza on Tuesday as Palestinians kept up rocket fire on Israeli territory in the worst surge of violence since a 2014 war.

Lt. -Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesperson, said Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group have more than 20,000 rockets and mortars, some capable of reaching Israel's main cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Reuters have reported that Israeli warplanes bombed the studios of Hamas's television station in the Gaza Strip on Monday during a surge in cross-border fighting, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.

The Strip's rulers retaliated with what the IDF said was the largest-ever volley of rockets into southern Israel in a single day, overwhelming the Iron Dome missile defence system. The organizers cited "the ongoing security situation".

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have locked themselves into an escalating firefight, launching scores of bombings and reprisal attacks in violence sparked by a botched Israeli special forces raid miles inside Gaza on Sunday evening.

An Israeli soldier walks by a house damaged by a missile fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.

The agreements were meant to be part of a wider effort to alleviate deteriorating conditions in the impoverished territory after 11 years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

Residents said the Israeli vehicle sped off with two Hamas cars in pursuit. It said militants discovered the auto and chased it down, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed "a number of people".

Breaking news indicates that the Israeli cabinet has authorized more strikes inside Gaza in retaliation for today's missile barrage.

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Israel's military had not confirmed those details.

Israel's military spokesman said the special forces had not been dispatched to assassinate Hamas commanders, a tactic that led to wider conflict in the past and which has largely been abandoned, but were on an intelligence gathering operation. Undercover troops, apparently on a reconnaissance mission, were discovered inside Gaza on Sunday, setting off a battle that left seven militants, including a Hamas commander, and an Israeli military officer dead.

Hamas faces a similar dilemma: another war would bring new devastation to Gaza, but the group does not want to be seen as caving to Israeli pressure. The officer's funeral was being held Monday.

The intense clashes threatened to explode into war, and have dealt a blow to efforts by Egypt and the United Nations to forge a sustainable cease-fire and ease the dire humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory.

Deadly clashes have accompanied major protests along the Gaza-Israel border that began on March 30.

The blockade has devastated Gaza's economy.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that time.

Unemployment is over 50 percent, the territory suffers from chronic power outages and most residents are unable to travel overseas.

Israel's military acknowledged hitting the building, saying in a statement "it contributes to Hamas's military actions, including by providing operational messaging to militants, directing and explicitly calling for terror activities against Israel, and providing guidance on how to carry out such terror activities".

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