An armoured brigade is poised to launch a ground invasion into Gaza if needed, the Israeli army has said, after militants in the besieged strip fired over 450 rockets into its territory over the last 24 hours.
A man in this late 50s killed in the Southern city of Ashkelon by rocket fire amid an overnight flare up of cross-border fighting. He was named locally as Moshe Agadi and is the first Israeli civilian to be killed since the 2014 war, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Gaza’s health ministry, mean while, said seven Palestinians have been killed and 47 injured Israeli strikes, including a pregnant woman and a one year-old baby.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israeli army, said the 7th brigade had been deployed to the border with Gaza “on standby for offensive mission”.
“An armoured brigade is ready for various contingencies but earmarked for an offensive mission being by definition a mission that goes in side enemy terrain,” he told reporters.
He declined to comment on reports of a ceasefire. Rocket sirens continued to blare in southern Israel Sunday after 24 hours after massive barrage from Gaza started Saturday morning.
“Our intention is to continue operating throughout,” he added.
Lt Col Conricus claimed that that the the pregnant women and the baby who were killed in Gaza actually died accidentally due to friendly fire, citing Israeli intelligence.
He said that the Israeli forces had killed eight militants amid strikes across 220 different targets across the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the rocket fire.
Beyond the man killed, an 80-year-old Israeli woman was seriously injured in a rocket strike on the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat. A man was also hospitalised in Ashkelon, according to the police.
A house near Ashkelon was damaged while other rockets hit open areas.
In Gaza the health ministry said nearly 50 had been injured.
Fighting erupted Saturday morning when armed factions in Gaza launched a barrage of rocket and motars at Southern Israel after four Palestinians including two militants were killed Friday afternoon after two Israeli solders were injured in a shooting incident along the border.
Though it says the shooting was not coordinated with Hamas, and that Islamic Jihad has been undermining Hamas of late, Israel still holds Hamas responsible for all the fire as the territory’s ruling power.
Israel said it has hit over 200 targets, including what it called weapons manufacturing sites and the buildings of Hamas military intelligence and security offices.
Turkey said an office for its state news agency Anadolu was located in one of the multi-storey building’s hit and strongly denounced the strike.
Is the Israel-Palestine two-state solution dead?
Israel said the other building housed Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices.
A Hamas delegation led by its Gaza head Yahya Sinwar had been in Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian officials over a long term ceasefire.
On Sunday Egypt struggled again to try to broker a new truce to stop the fighting.
There is little hope of an immediate end to the hostilities, in Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who is locked in tense negotiations to form the next government, ordered the Israeli military to continue “massive strikes”.
It is tense timing as Israel is expected to host Eurovision Song Contest in just 10 day’s time. Thousands of foreign visitors and celebrities, including Madonna who is performing, are expected to fly into Israel for the song contest.
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The flare up also took place just a day ahead of the holy month of Ramadan starting.
At least 271 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began in March 2018, the majority along the border.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that period. Two were also injured on Friday sparking this wave of violence.
Israel, which has been accused of committing war crimes by targeting civilians, journalists and paramedics, accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover to carry out attacks. IT has defended its forces saying it is necessary to defend the border and protect Israeli civilians.