GAZA-ISRAEL BORDER – The Israeli military reported, “Israeli aircraft struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip and Palestinians launched dozens of mortar bombs and rockets from the enclave into Israel”.

A Palestinian official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said, “Egypt and other international players were holding contacts with Israel and Gaza to restore calm. There was no immediate comment from officials in Cairo”.

The Israeli military said, “it struck more than 40 targets within several militant compounds belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, in what it described as one of its widest operations since a 2014 Israel-Gaza war. The exchange of fire followed a familiar pattern of retaliatory attacks by the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups across the Gaza-Israel border, which has seen an escalation of violence over the past few months”.

The military launched a series of air strikes in Gaza. Palestinian militants then began firing projectiles into Israel, drawing further strikes by the Israeli air force to which the armed groups responded by launching more rockets. The powerful blasts shook Gaza homes and black plumes of smoke were seen rising from the sites of the explosions. Gaza militants fired more than 50 mortar bombs and rockets towards Israel, the military said, setting off sirens and sending Israelis fleeing to their shelters. The Israeli military said Friday’s protesters were throwing burning tires, stones, explosive devices and firebombs at its soldiers and that one of its officers was wounded by a Palestinian grenade hurled across the border fence.

There have been no Israeli fatalities during the so-called “Great March of Return” demonstrations but big tracts of Israeli land have been ravaged by fires set by blazing kites or helium balloons carrying burning rags floated over from Gaza. Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the weekly protests to distract from governance problems and provide cover for militants’ cross-border attacks.

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