Palestinian militants on Monday carried out their most intensive shelling of Israel since the 2014 Gaza war in retaliation for a botched cross-border commando raid, killing an Israeli civilian and drawing Israeli air strikes against Hamas’ television station and other targets.
The flare-up, in which three Palestinian gunmen and a civilian in Israel were killed, threatened to derail efforts by the United Nations, Egypt and Qatar to broker a long-term truce and head off another major conflict in the impoverished enclave.
Hamas, Gaza’s dominant Islamist movement, and other armed factions launched more than 300 rockets or mortar bombs across the border after carrying out a surprise guided-missile attack on a bus that wounded an Israeli soldier, the military said.
Sirens in southern Israeli towns and the port of Ashkelon sent residents rushing to bomb shelters. Several homes were hit.
Israel responded with dozens of air strikes against Gaza buildings including a Hamas intelligence compound and the Al-Aqsa Television studios, whose employees had received advance warnings from the military to evacuate.
The casualty in Israel was the first civilian killed there in months of sporadic violence that has killed 220 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
Egypt urged Israel to back down. The United States, whose peace mediation has been stalled since 2014, condemned Hamas.
“The escalation in the past 24 hours is EXTREMELY dangerous and reckless,” tweeted Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. Middle East envoy. “Rockets must STOP, restraint must be shown by all!”
Violence has simmered since Palestinians launched weekly border protests on March 30 to demand the easing of a blockade on Gaza and rights to lands lost in the 1948 war of Israel’s founding.—Reuters