The Islamic Jihad and Hamas said late Saturday that a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and the UN, had been reached with Israel following a surge in violence on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border.
Only hours after the ceasefire was to go into effect, two mortar shells were fired from Gaza and landed in a field in Israel, prompting Israel to strike the position from which the mortar was launched.
The ceasefire announcement followed what Israel described as its biggest offensive strikes on the Palestinian enclave since Protective Edge, a reference to Israel’s name for its 2014 Gaza operation.
Israeli airstrikes targeted Hamas military targets in Gaza on Saturday, while Palestinian factions fired more than 170 rockets and mortars into Israel, forcing Israelis to seek shelter.
“The army has struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge, and we will intensify the strength of attacks if necessary,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned.
Two Palestinian boys, aged 15 and 16, were killed in Israeli airstrikes, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Witnesses said Israeli warplanes dropped four bombs on a building in Gaza City. The boys were nearby and hit by shrapnel.
Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service said it treated a 52-year-old man, a 17-year-old girl, and a 20-year-old woman for injuries after a rocket landed on a residential home in the southern Israeli city of Sderot.
Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said air force sorties had struck about 40 Hamas targets, including battalion headquarters, tunnels, and logistical centres.
He blamed Hamas for the escalation, citing the militants’ mortar, and rocket attacks that set off alarms in Israel and forced residents to seek shelter. More than 30 of the rockets and mortars were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system, while more than 100 landed in empty fields.
On 9 July, in response to the burning kites, Israel closed its only goods crossing into the enclave of 2 million people, which has been under an 11-year-old blockade.