GAZA CITY: Palestinian militants on Saturday fired some 200 rockets at Israel, which responded with strikes that killed a baby, her pregnant mother and another Palestinian, officials said, as a fragile ceasefire faltered and a further escalation was feared.
The latest flare-up came with Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the blockaded Gaza Strip, seeking further concessions from Israel under the ceasefire.
Israel said around 200 rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave and its air defences intercepted dozens of them.
One woman was seriously injured in a rocket strike on the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat, some 20 kilometres from the Gaza border, police said.
Police said a man was also hospitalised in the city of Ashkelon and spoke of other injuries without providing details.
The Israeli army said its tanks and planes hit some 120 militant targets in its response.
They included an Islamic Jihad attack tunnel that stretched from southern Gaza into Israeli territory, military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
The Gaza health ministry reported a 22-year-old man as well as a 14-month-old baby and her pregnant mother were killed, and 17 others wounded.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said the military did not have any information on the incident involving the baby. The army said earlier it was targeting only military sites.
As the exchange of fire continued, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations with security chiefs.
A statement from Hamas ally Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for at least some of the rocket fire and said it was prepared for more if necessary.
Its armed wing distributed a video showing militants handling rockets and threatening key Israeli sites, including Ben-Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv.
A source in the group said Egypt was engaged in discussions to calm the situation, as it has done repeatedly in the past.
The European Union called for an immediate halt to rocket fire from Gaza.
Israel said it was closing its people and goods crossings with Gaza as well as the zone it allows for fishermen off the enclave until further notice due to the rocket fire.
“Over the coming hours we will continue and we will broaden our offensive efforts, air force efforts, inside the Gaza Strip, again focusing only on military targets,” Conricus said.
The escalation follows the most violent clashes along the Gaza border in weeks on Friday. Four Palestinians were killed after two Israeli soldiers were wounded in a shooting during weekly protests on the border.
Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2019