Israeli air strikes on Monday killed five more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including a 16-year-old schoolboy and two other civilians, as Gaza-based militant groups continued their barrage of rockets and missiles into nearby Israel.
The latest escalation, which began on Friday, is one of the deadliest since the end of the Gaza war in January 2009, and has so far claimed the lives of 23 Palestinians in the strip – five civilians and 18 members of militant groups. At least 70 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been injured in the violence.
Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed that Egypt was still trying to broker a truce between the two sides, but there was no let-up in the violence on Monday.
The cross-border fire also came in defiance of appeals for calm from the US and the Middle East Quartet, which brings together the UN, the European Union, Russia and the US. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she condemned “in the strongest terms” the rocket fire from Gaza, adding: “We call on both sides – all sides – to make every effort to restore calm.”
Gaza-based militant groups on Monday fired more than 40 rockets and missiles at nearby Israeli cities, taking the total since Friday to more than 200.
As in the past days, Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield managed to intercept most – but not all – of the rockets fired at larger towns such as Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheva. Two rockets from Gaza landed near Gedera, just 40km south of Tel Aviv.
Monday’s barrage was again the work of smaller Gaza-based militant groups such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees. Hamas, the Islamist group that has ruled the strip since 2007, has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks. Israel, however, holds the group responsible for the actions of smaller militant organisations.
The latest escalation started on Friday after an Israeli air strike killed Zuhir al-Qaisi, the Gaza-based leader of the PRC, widely seen as one of the most active and aggressive militant groups in Gaza. Israel says the group was planning an attack on Israeli targets in the south of the country.
Get alerts on Arab-Israel conflict when a new story is published