Israel strikes Gaza militant sites, Palestinians fire rockets

Israeli aircraft struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip and Palestinians launched dozens of mortar bombs and rockets from the enclave into Israel on Saturday, the Israeli military said.

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.

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 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 toward Israel, the military said, setting off sirens and sending Israelis fleeing to their shelters.

However, it appeared that neither Israel nor Hamas were seeking further escalation and there were no reports of serious casualties on either side of the border.

Gaza militants often vacate potential target sites during flare-ups and Israelis who live in villages and towns near the border have reinforced rooms in their homes and rocket sirens that alert of an incoming attack. Israel’s Iron Dome rocket interceptor system often shoots down Gaza projectiles.

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