ISRAEL hit Gaza with air strikes yesterday afternoon.
Palestinian medical sources said at least seven Palestinians were killed.
This includes a 5-year-old girl. 44 others were wounded in a series of Israeli airstrikes on multiple targets in the Gaza Strip, and includes a residential apartment in the neighbourhood of Al-Rimal in Gaza City.
A WAFA correspondent said Israeli warplanes attacked an apartment in a high-rise building in Al-Rimal neighbourhood, causing the injury of Palestinian residents, including serious cases.
Several other Palestinians, including children, were also injured in an Israeli airstrike on the Al-Fakhari neighbourhood in Khan Yunis, south of the Strip.
Warplanes also attacked targets in the town of Beit Lahia, north of the Strip.
Israel says it is attacking Gaza with warplanes and declared a ‘special situation on the home front’, after days of tensions with the Palestinians.
The military said in a statement: ‘The IDF (Israel Defence Force) is currently striking in the Gaza Strip. A special situation has been declared on the Israeli home front.’ It said further details would follow.
The friction follows the arrest of a senior Palestinian leader, the Governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, after a court sentenced him to house arrest in the occupied West Bank.(see page 5).
Palestinian medical sources said that many wounded people arrived at hospitals as a result of the Israeli raids.
Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border, as it braced for a response after the arrest of a senior member of the Islamic Jihad group in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement it would respond to the ‘escalation’.
‘The Israeli enemy is the one who started the escalation against the resistance in Gaza, and a new crime was committed, and it bears the full responsibility,’ said Barhoum.
‘The resistance will defend our people in the Gaza Strip with everything it has and will continue to respond.’
Ahmad Mudalal, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, said the group had made demands of Israel through Egyptian mediators – including the release of the detained leader and another prisoner, a halt to West Bank raids, and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. He said they have not yet received a response.
It was not immediately clear what Israel was targeting or how much the situation would escalate.
Israel and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have fought four wars and engaged in several smaller skirmishes over the past 15 years.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza on Friday, saying authorities were preparing ‘actions that will remove the threat from this region’, without elaborating.
‘We will operate with internal resilience and external strength in order to restore routine life in Israel’s south,’ he said. ‘We do not seek conflict, yet we will not hesitate to defend our citizens, if required.’
Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade on Gaza for 14 years, and critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment of the region’s two million Palestinian residents.