Dozens of mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in heaviest barrage since 2014 war

Dozens of mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in heaviest barrage since 2014 warIsraeli warplanes struck targets across Gaza on Tuesday in response to dozens of mortar shells fired by Palestinian militants, triggering the most serious exchange of fire between the two sides since the end of the 2014 Gaza conflict.  The Israeli military said 28 projectiles were fired out of Gaza into southern Israel at around 7am local time. One person was lightly wounded in the barrage and one shell fell into the yard of a kindergarten, spraying the school with shrapnel.  Suspicion for the attack immediately fell on Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant faction which is tolerated by Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip. Within hours of the shelling, Israeli jets began to strike Hamas and Islamic Jihad outposts across Gaza.  An Israeli military spokesman said a second wave of projectiles was fired from Gaza at around 3pm. The exchange of fire comes after weeks of heightened tensions on the Gaza border, where Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Palestinians during protests. Most the dead were unarmed but some were engaged in bomb and gun attacks on Israeli troops.  Although neither Israel nor the Palestinian militant factions are looking for a full blown war, the shooting raised concerns about a an escalation of violence that could send both sides stumbling into all out conflict.  "Israel views with utmost gravity the attacks against it and its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip,” said Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. “Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to attack it, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.” The IDF will respond with great force to these attacks. Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to attack it, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 29, 2018 The mortar shells fell in and around Israeli communities near the Gaza border, triggering air raid sirens and sending thousands of Israelis running for bomb shelters. The Israeli military said most of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.  Video from the Israeli kindergarten showed the front of the building had been pockmarked by shrapnel from a mortar. No children were injured.  Merav Cohen, an Israeli mother who lives near the kindergarten, said she would not send her to children to school on Tuesday after the attack. “Seven o’clock is the busiest time of day. This could have ended differently,” she told the Walla news website.  Islamic Jihad did not outright claim responsibility for the attack but praised the shelling as legitimate resistance to Israel. "Our people's blood is not cheap and Israel can't continue spilling it without deterrence," an Islamic Jihad spokesman said after the barrage. Three Islamic Jihad fighters were killed by Israeli forces on Saturday Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Israeli forces killed three Islamic Jihad fighters on Sunday after they tried to plant an explosive near the Gaza border fence, according to Israel’s military. The Islamist group had vowed revenge for the killings.  Israel has a policy of holding Hamas responsible for any attacks coming out of Gaza, regardless of which group actually did the shooting.  More than 30 airstrikes were carried out in Gaza, according to the Israeli military. There was no immediate word on casualties.  #Israeli air strikes in central and south #Gaza targeting military positions that belong to islamic Jihad in Gaza , no causalities confirmed by #Palestinian health ministry yet. Photos by journalist Moneeb Saada pic.twitter.com/FOwjp4wUrr— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) May 29, 2018 Hamas and other factions have refrained from firing rockets into Israel since February but there has been a spike in shooting in recent days. On Monday night, heavy machine gun fire from Gaza hit a house in the Israeli town of Sderot. Another house in Sderot was hit by gunfire two weeks earlier.  Emanuele Giaufret, the EU ambassador to Israel, condemned the attack as "totally unacceptable".  As kids were preparing for school this morning a barrage of rockets from Gaza fell on southern Israel. One landed outside a kindergarten. I know the resilience of communities in southern Israel but indiscriminate attacks are totally unacceptable and to be condemned unreservedly.— Emanuele Giaufret (@EGiaufretEU) May 29, 2018  



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