Tensions flare as Israel hits dozens of Gaza targets after mortar barrage

Tensions flare as Israel hits dozens of Gaza targets after mortar barrage

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz sidestepped questions on Wednesday on whether Israel had agreed to a ceasefire but said it was not interested in an escalation toward war.

In a rare joint statement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the fire was in retaliation for Israeli attacks targeting their positions.

The protests peaked May 14, the same day the USA opened its embassy in Israel's capital, Jerusalem, when more than 60 people died in a Hamas-organized action to breach the Israeli border and return to homes that were lost 70 years ago during the war that established Israel.

Three Islamic Jihad members were killed in an Israeli strike on Sunday, and the group vowed revenge.

By late on Tuesday, Israeli aircraft had hit 55 facilities belonging to militant groups in Gaza, including a cross-border tunnel under construction, in response to the Palestinian barrages, the military said.

As part of their protest campaign, Palestinians launched a ship from Gaza's Mediterranean coast Tuesday, aiming to break the Israeli blockade of the territory, according to spokesman Sallah Abdulati. "The IDF will respond to these attacks powerfully", he said during a conference in northern Israel.

Amid worldwide condemnation of its use of lethal force at the mass demonstrations that began on March 30, Israel said numerous dead were militants and that the army was repelling attacks on the border fence.

Sirens sounded throughout much of the day in Israel warning of about 70 incoming rockets and shells, some intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. At least seven bases of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were struck.

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A statement issue by the Islamic Jihad said that: "Egypt has requested a calming of the situation". Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side.

The referral sought an investigation into Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza since the state of Palestine accepted the ICC's jurisdiction in 2014, Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riad al Maliki said.

The violent clashes between Palestinian protestors and IDF on the Gaza border with Israel erupted in March when the Palestinians started their rallies called the Great March of Return.

Kuwait, a non-permanent council member representing Arab countries, circulated a draft resolution calling "for the consideration of measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population".

A crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed when Hamas took power, has meanwhile brought the local economy to a standstill.

The limited response drew the ire of Mayor Alon Davidi and residents of the Israeli town of Sederot who called for a large scale IDF offensive to finish off Hamas and the other Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this month, the USA opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, a move that angered Palestinians and drew global outrage.

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