Gaza rocket hits Israeli city, prompting Israeli air strikes in retaliation

Deputy Minister of Diplomacy MK Michael Oren

Deputy Minister of Diplomacy MK Michael Oren

Israel's military began targeting militant sites in Gaza on Wednesday, calling the attacks a response to earlier rockets that were launched from Gaza, one of which struck a residential home in southern Israel.

The latest escalation came after Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman signaled he had had enough of the relentless violence along the border with Gaza, and the significant increase in infiltration attempts from the coastal enclave.

"Tonight, a large portion of southern Israel's population was put under immediate danger as Gazan terrorists fired a rocket at Beer Sheva (Beersheva)", IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said in a statement.

"At the same time, we emphasize we are ready to confront the Israeli aggression".

A member of Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas inspects the scene of an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip October 17, 2018.

Palestinian protestors place their national flag on a metal structure during a demonstration on the beach near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip, on October 8, 2018.

Israel's military chief cut short a visit to the United States and was returning home, and schools were to be shut in Beersheba for the day, the reports said.

Health officials in Gaza said a 25-year-old Palestinian man, identified by Al-Mujahedeen Brigades, a small militant faction, as one of its members, was killed. Three other people were wounded.

An Egyptian security delegation was visiting the Gaza Strip to try to restore calm.

It comes after months of violent Palestinian protests on the Gaza border, sparking deadly gunfire from Israeli troops and fears of an all-out conflict between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars since 2008. Last week, some 14,000 Palestinians thronged to the perimeter fence, burning tires and throwing rocks, firebombs and grenades at soldiers stationed atop earth mounds on the other side. Over the weekend, Israel halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza's power plant in response to the escalated protests.

Hamas seeks a cease-fire with Israel to secure an easing of the blockade but accuses its West Bank rivals, Fatah, of thwarting the effort.

"If it has any sense, Hamas will cease its fire and violent outbursts - now", he said Sunday.

A week ago, Israel also announced it was willing to to issue entry permits for 5,000 merchants from Gaza for business purposes, while Qatar would be allowed to pay the salaries of civil servants in Gaza and to finance humanitarian projects in the poverty-stricken enclave. Seven Palestinians were killed, including four who the military said had entered Israel and approached a military position.

Palestinians along the Gaza border have been staging semi-regular protests since March. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened "very painful blows", saying Israel was very close to waging a "different kind of activity".

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