Gaza Militants Bombard Israel as Volatile Border Area Heats Up

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli military forces struck the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, blowing up an attack tunnel and more than 30 other targets, after militants unleashed their biggest barrage on southern Israel since the 2014 war in the Palestinian territory.

Sirens sounded throughout much of the day in Israel warning of about 70 incoming rockets and shells, some intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which claimed joint responsibility for the attacks, would “pay a heavy price.” Israeli media reported that Netanyahu was meeting with defense chiefs Tuesday night to evaluate the situation.

Late Tuesday, a spokesman for the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad said the militant groups had reached a cease fire with Israel through Egyptian mediation. An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the claim. The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The Gaza border has become a deadly flashpoint in recent weeks. Israeli soldiers have killed more than 120 Palestinians since March 30, most at protests dramatizing the Palestinian demand to reclaim land lost in the fighting surrounding Israel’s 1948 creation. Organizers billed the demonstrations as peaceful, but pockets of violence have emerged. Israel said it has acted against militants who used the mass gatherings as cover to attack troops and try to infiltrate Israeli territory.

Gaza Ship

Three Israeli soldiers were injured in Tuesday’s barrages, two lightly and a third moderately, the army said. Israeli officials signaled they aren’t looking for escalation, but warned that continued firing from Gaza could lead to a harsher Israeli response.

“If the terror from Gaza continues, we will intensify our retaliations. We will not allow continued rocket fire,” army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

The United States called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the attack on Israel. The meeting could take place Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. mission to the UN said in a release.

As part of their protest campaign, Palestinians launched a ship from Gaza’s Mediterranean coast Tuesday, aiming to break the Israeli blockade of the territory, according to spokesman Sallah Abdulati. The boat was apprehended by the navy and towed to an Israeli base, the army said.

Israeli military spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus called the ship launch an “illegal attempt to break a legal naval blockade of Gaza,” and dismissed it as a publicity stunt.

He also addressed the tunnel Israel destroyed along the Gaza border, which passed from the town of Rafah into both Israeli and Egyptian territory. It was the 10th such attack tunnel Israel has destroyed since Oct. 30, Conricus said.

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