Fighting intensifies between Israel, Palestinian militants

Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Wednesday, while Israel pressed ahead with a series of airstrikes that have killed 23 Palestinians, including three senior militants and at least 10 civilians.

Egyptian effort to broker ceasefire appears to have faltered

10 civilians killed in Gaza as fighting ramps up

6 hours ago

Duration 2:19

Although there was talk of a ceasefire, hopes have faded amid Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks by Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian militant group. It's the worst fighting in the region since earlier this year.

Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Wednesday, while Israel pressed ahead with a series of airstrikes that have killed 23 Palestinians, including three senior militants and at least 10 civilians.

A state-run Egyptian TV station announced that Egypt, a frequent mediator between the sides, had brokered a ceasefire. But the truce efforts appeared to falter as fighting intensified late Wednesday, with neither side showing any sign of backing down.

Early Thursday, the Israeli military said it targeted the commander of Islamic Jihad's rocket squad in an airstrike on a building in the southern Gaza Strip.

The military said Ali Ghali was hiding in an apartment and that two additional militants from the group were killed alongside him in the airstrike at a Qatari-built residential complex in Khan Younis. Ghali instructed and took part in rocket attacks against Israel in recent months. There was no comment from the militant group.

'This round is not over'

In a prime-time TV address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israel had dealt a harsh blow to the militants. But he cautioned: "This round is not over."

A building damaged by an Israeli airstrike is seen in the southern Gaza Strip.

"We say to the terrorists and those who send them. We see you everywhere. You can't hide, and we choose the place and time to strike you," he said, adding that Israel would also decide when calm is restored.

Throughout the day, rocket fire set off air-raid sirens throughout southern and central Israel, some 80 kilometres away.

Residents had been bracing for an attack since Israel launched its first airstrikes early Tuesday.

It was the heaviest fighting between the sides in months, pushing the region closer toward a full-blown war.

But in signs that both sides were trying to show restraint, Israel avoided attacks on the ruling Hamas militant group, targeting only the smaller and more militant Islamic Jihad faction. Hamas, meanwhile, appeared to remain on the sidelines.

Egypt pushes for ceasefire

Late Wednesday, Egypt's Extra News television channel, which has close ties to Egyptian security agencies, said it had brokered a ceasefire. Egyptian intelligence frequently mediates between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Israeli officials confirmed that Egypt was trying to facilitate a ceasefire. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes diplomacy, they said Israel would evaluate the situation based on actions on the ground, not declarations.

Israeli police officers examine site where a rocket landed in Ashkelon, Israel.

Islamic Jihad said it would continue firing rockets. Mohamad al-Hindi, an official with the group, said a sticking point in the talks was that the Palestinians wanted an Israeli commitment to stop targeted killing operations, such as the ones that killed three top Islamic Jihad commanders early Tuesday.

As rockets streaked through the sky, Israeli TV stations showed air-defence systems intercepting rockets above the skies of Tel Aviv. In the nearby suburb of Ramat Gan, people lay face down on the ground as they took cover.

The Israeli military said that for the first time, an air-defence system known as David's Sling intercepted a rocket. The system, developed with the U.S., is meant to intercept medium-range threats and is part of a multi-layered air defence that also includes the better-known Iron Dome anti-rocket system. Israeli media said a previous attempt to use the system several years ago had failed.

In a move that could further raise tensions, Israeli police said they would permit a Jewish ultranationalist parade to take place next week. The parade, meant to celebrate Israel's capture of east Jerusalem and its Jewish holy sites, marches through the heart of the Old City's Muslim Quarter and often leads to friction with local Palestinians.

Israeli officials said over 400 rockets had been fired as of Wednesday evening. Most, they said, were intercepted or fell in open areas, but Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said about one-quarter had been misfired and fallen inside Gaza.

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