Israeli airstrikes, Palestinian rockets continue even as hopes for ceasefire grow


The most violent confrontation in months between Israel and Palestinian militants continued for a third straight day on Friday, as Israeli warplanes struck targets in the Gaza Strip and militants fired more rockets at Israel.
There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side on Friday, as foreign mediators pressed ahead with efforts to reach a cease-fire.
The past few days of fighting have killed 31 Palestinians in Gaza and a 70-year-old man in central Israel.
The Israeli military said its warplanes struck Islamic Jihad rocket launchers. Gaza residents reported explosions in farms near the southern city of Rafah.
A burst of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip sent air raid sirens wailing near Israel’s southern border Friday, breaking a 12-hour lull that had raised hopes that Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations could soon be able to broker a cease-fire.
The cross-border exchanges this week have pitted Israel against Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after the territory’s Hamas rulers.
Since Tuesday, Israel says its strikes have killed five senior Islamic Jihad figures. Islamic Jihad has retaliated with over 800 rockets fire toward densely populated parts of Israel.
In that time, Israel’s military said it has used airstrikes to hit at least 215 targets in Gaza, including rocket and mortar launch sites and militants preparing to use them.
Israeli bombs and shells have destroyed 47 housing units, and damaged 19 so badly they were uninhabitable, leaving 165 Palestinians homeless, Gaza’s housing ministry reported.
In addition, nearly 300 homes sustained some damage.
Palestinians on Friday surveyed the wreckage wrought by the fighting.
“The dream that we built for our children, for our sons, has ended,” said Belal Bashir, a Palestinian living in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, whose family home was reduced to a heap of rubble in an airstrike late on Thursday.
He and his family would have been killed in the thundering explosion if they hadn’t ran outside when they heard shouting, he said.
“We were shocked that our house was targeted,” he added as he pulled his young children’s dolls and blankets from a bomb crater.
At least 31 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed in the fighting, including seven children and four women, according to the UN humanitarian office.
At least three of the children were killed by misfired Palestinian rockets, according to the Israeli military and the Palestinian Centre for Rights.
Over 90 Palestinians have been wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported.