Israel bombs Gaza, Palestinians fire rockets as United Nations seeks ceasefire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meet with top seucirty officials at IDF military's headquarters in Tel Aviv early Thursday

The three flare-ups since July, which follow months of tensions due to protests and clashes along the Gaza border, have raised fears of a fourth war between the two sides since 2008.

At least three Palestinians died - a pregnant woman, her 1-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant.

The spokesperson tried to highlight the Israeli narrative that victims on the Palestinian side are in retaliation for their own rocket attacks, which reportedly affected southern Israel.

"Hamas suffered a severe blow", an Israeli official told reporters in the late afternoon. The U.N.'s Mideast envoy appealed for calm.

In a tweet, the Israeli military said Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, had "used the building for military purposes".

The rocket that hit an open area outside the major Israeli city of Beersheba caused no damage or injuries. Despite the animosity, the enemies have signaled, through their contacts with Egypt, that they want to avoid another war.

After the BBC published a headline that read, "Israeli air strikes "kill woman and a toddler, '" the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a formal complaint to the British outlet, and it ultimately changed the headline to, "Gaza air strikes 'kill woman and child" after rockets hit Israel".

But the continued outbursts of fire have jeopardized those cease-fire efforts. The latest round erupted Tuesday, when the Israeli military struck a Hamas military post in Gaza after it said militants fired on Israeli troops on the border. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) Also Thursday, Hamas insisted that neither it nor the Islamic Jihad terror group were responsible for Thursday's rocket attack on Beersheba that ruptured a two-hour ceasefire and marked a significant increase in the level of violence from Gaza.

The incident occurred while a group of senior Hamas leaders from overseas were visiting Gaza to discuss the ceases-fire efforts with local leaders. "It condemns the firing of rockets toward Israel and would like restraint to prevail and the ceasefire to be upheld by all parties in order to prevent further civilian casualties".

For more than a decade Gaza has been controlled by Hamas under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has collapsed its economy, creating what the World Bank has described as a humanitarian crisis with shortages of water, electricity and medicine. The ministry said the militant and the civilians were killed in separate incidents.

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"It is extremely important for Hamas to deliver the message that they are not going there because they are weak", said Kuperwasser, who added that the rocket barrage was an attempt by Hamas "to show that this is not the case".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet said in a statement late Thursday that it had directed the Israeli military "to continue taking strong action" against militants in Gaza. The military said that the Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted at least 30 rockets and the majority landed in open areas.

A Hamas militant was also killed in the overnight strikes and at least 12 others injured, the health ministry said. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned last month that Israel is preparing to launch a "large and painful military operation", and Thursday's bombardment appeared to be a step in that direction. "We are reinforcing the southern command and Gaza division".

Mladenov added that "if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people".

In Sderot, the Israeli city near the Gaza Strip, a gaping hole could be seen in front of a small, three-storey building.

In nearby Israeli communities, residents were sent scrambling to bomb shelters.

Israeli Army Radio said the rocket was a long-range Grad capable of reaching Israel's heartland. The protests have been aimed in part at trying to break the blockade. Medical officials said at least seven bystanders were wounded.

The two were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit their home in the Jaafari area of central Gaza.

A magnitude 7.0 quake struck at a depth of 33km about 154km south-southwest of Puerto Triunfo in El Salvador. But it has come under heavy global criticism for its frequent use of force against unarmed protesters.

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