IAF Bombs Hamas Internal Security HQ in Northern Gaza

A fireball explodes during Israeli air strikes on Gaza City

France said it "deplores the escalation of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip". Israel rarely acknowledges reaching any such agreement with Hamas, a group it designates as a terrorist organization and with which it has fought three wars in the past decade.

A surge in cross border rocket and air strikes in recent weeks have prompted the United Nations and Egypt to try to broker a truce to prevent another one.

Gaza militants halted fire Thursday after targeting Israel with some 180 rockets and mortars, provoking Israeli strikes across the enclave that killed three Palestinians, including a toddler, in another severe flare-up of violence.

As Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, put it, the "current Israeli bombardment sequence in Gaza started when the Israeli military killed two Palestinians, lied about why, and later admitted to doing so just as a high level Palestinian delegation was on its way to Cairo to discuss longer term cease-fire".

An Israeli official told reporters Hamas has been seeking an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire throughout the day on Thursday, after an earlier truce that went into effect in the afternoon was breached after some two hours. "The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development", he said.

While Israeli officials insisted that their large-scale attack on Gaza was in response to Hamas rocket fire, Haaretz reports that it was in fact the Israeli army that sparked the escalation by killing two Palestinians with tank fire, after they allegedly mistook a training exercise for an actual attack.

The original headline reported on Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, in which a pregnant 23-year-old woman and her 18-month-old daughter were killed on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Palestinian mourners took part in the funeral for the woman and the baby on Thursday in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah.

Israel's military had not commented.

Ambulance sirens echoed through the night in Gaza, where families huddled at home as powerful explosions thundered through the strip. Rocket sirens were still sounding in Israeli neighborhoods on Wednesday evening, while strikes in Gaza continued.

The Israeli military said its aircraft had struck more than 150 Hamas targets overnight, while more than 180 Palestinian rockets and mortars hit southern Israel.

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"It is extremely important for Hamas to deliver the message that they are not going there because they are weak", said Kuperwasser, who added that the rocket barrage was an attempt by Hamas "to show that this is not the case". Police said they found its remnants in an open area on the outskirts of the city of 200,000 people and that no one was hurt.

Israel responded by hitting the multi-storey building, first with small bombs apparently so that people would evacuate, then flattening it to the ground with a huge blast that shook the city and raised clouds of dust and smoke.

The Said Meshal Cultural Centre confirmed on its Facebook page the offices in Gaza City had been destroyed, saying the building also hosted offices for the Egyptian community in Gaza. Palestinian sources said 18 people were injured in the strike.

Prior Thursday night's meeting, "the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense instructed the IDF to prepare for every possibility", an official said.

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel on August 9, 2018.

The spokesperson tried to highlight the Israeli narrative that victims on the Palestinian side are in retaliation for their own rocket attacks, which reportedly affected southern Israel.

Three Palestinians were killed during pre dawn Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip Thursday.

As Israel continues to attack Gaza and strangle its economy with measures that have been denounced as "genocidal policies of collective punishment", the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) noted that "Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of a full-blown humanitarian crisis due to Israel's 10-year siege".

Israel's latest attack on Gaza was characterized as the largest escalation since 2014, when Israel killed more than 2,000 Palestinians in a seven-week military operation.

Yuval Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Israel Radio earlier that Israel was "not eager for war" but would make no concessions to Hamas.

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