Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with dozens of rockets and mortar shells yesterday while Israeli warplanes struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip in what appeared to be the most intense exchange of fire since the 2014 war.
Palestinian officials said at least three people, including two militants, were killed by Israeli fire and nine were wounded. In Israel, the national rescue service said at least seven people were wounded, including a 19-year-old man who was in critical condition.
The fighting, which cast doubt over recent understandings brokered by Egypt and U.N. officials to reduce tensions, was triggered by a botched undercover Israeli military raid in Gaza the day before.
The undercover troops, apparently on a reconnaissance mission, were discovered several kilometers (miles) inside Gaza, setting off a battle that left seven militants, including a Hamas commander, and an Israeli military officer dead.
Around sundown on Monday, militants launched some 100 rockets in less than an hour, the most intense barrage since the 50-day war four years ago.
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The outgoing rockets, which continued into the evening, lit up the skies of Gaza and set off air raid sirens throughout southern Israel. The Israeli military said it was dispatching warplanes to strike “terror targets” across Gaza.
The military said warplanes, helicopters and tanks had struck over 20 militant targets, including military compounds and observation posts. It also said it targeted a squad that was launching rockets.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group, said the rocket fire was revenge for Sunday night’s Israeli incursion. Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said the groups wanted “the occupation and its supporters know that the lives of our sons come with a price.”
In all, some 200 rockets were fired into Israel by mid-evening, the army said. The Israeli military said it intercepted 60 rockets. Rockets landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, setting off a large fire near a shopping center.
Another rocket landed near a factory, and a home was hit in the southern city of Ashkelon. Some landed in open areas.