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3rd day of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza after Hamas accused of firing mortar rounds

May 6, 2016 12:32 P.M. (Updated: May 8, 2016 9:44 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip continued Friday morning for the third consecutive day, with the Israeli army accusing Hamas of launching mortar rounds near the border area.

Witnesses told Ma’an Israeli warplanes targeted open areas east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, with no injuries reported.

At dawn, Israeli forces also fired three shells at eastern Rafah, with no injuries reported, witnesses said.

In a statement released Friday morning, the Israeli army said the Israeli air force targeted “Hamas terror infrastructure” earlier at around 6 a.m. Friday.

The statement accused Hamas of launching mortar rounds since Tuesday “against forces during operational defensive activities adjacent to the security fence with the Gaza Strip,” adding that Friday morning’s offensive was the 12th such incident over the last three days.

Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner said in response to the incident: ”The repeated attacks against the IDF (Israeli army) activities to locate and destroy cross border tunnels will not be tolerated. Hamas' diabolical plan to infiltrate into Israeli communities must be stopped.”

Later Friday afternoon, Israeli media outlet The Jerusalem Post reported a mortar fell adjacent to Israeli forces in southern Israel near the Gaza border, with no damage or injuries reported. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an they could not confirm the reports.

The Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine warned on Friday that Israel's targeting of civilians and escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip would "push the resistance to reciprocate."

The latest round of airstrikes on the besieged coastal enclave comes after Israeli shelling killed a Palestinian woman on Thursday, injuring at least one other Palestinian woman.

The Israeli campaign began Wednesday evening launching several airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip, hours after Palestinian and Israeli shelling were exchanged across the border of the besieged enclave.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri urged all parties to accept their responsibilities and end the aggression on Gaza in a press statement released on Wednesday, adding that Israeli crimes would not “break the spirit of the Palestinian people.”

Thursday's airstrikes came only hours after Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouq, announced that Egypt was mediating peace efforts to restore the 2014 truce negotiated between Israel and the Gaza Strip following a devastating Israeli offensive on the Palestinian territory.

The Israeli army announced on Thursday that they had uncovered a tunnel in southern Gaza, which they said may cross under the security fence between the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

If the tunnel indeed crosses into Israel, it would be the second tunnel of its kind discovered since Israel's devastating assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Israel’s security cabinet is reportedly set to convene in Tel Aviv at the Israeli army’s military headquarters to discuss the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.
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