Gaza militants launch barrages across border, Israel hits back with air strikes

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Israel has bombed the besieged Gaza Strip near the border after Palestinian militants fired a barrage of mortar shells at southern Israel, the WAFA news agency has reported.

On Tuesday night, a rocket hit an Israeli home near the Gaza border, but no one was hurt, the military said.

The attacks started Tuesday evening and went into Wednesday morning, but Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system shot down numerous rockets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel gave Palestinian militant groups in Gaza "the strongest blow dealt to them in years", and warned against renewed rocket fire.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the firing, saying it was in response to Israel's killing of dozens of Palestinians since March 30, majority in Gaza border protests. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 however, citing safety issues, maintains tight management of its land and sea borders, which has lowered its financial system to a state of collapse.

"Israel takes a grave view of the attacks on it and its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip", he said.

Israel's military said it hit "military targets" including a tunnel stretching into its territory, weapons stores and militant bases. The flare up comes after weeks of tensions heightened by the killing of dozens of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli military.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who called the meeting, noted that Hamas claimed responsibility for this week's "outrageous terrorist attack" against Israel.

One of the shells fired Tuesday exploded in the yard of a kindergarten in southern Israel shortly before students were set to arrive.

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Hamas' decision to stop the attacks suggests it means to avoid another war, one that might well end its control of Gaza.

There were no reports of further attacks after Hamas announced early on Wednesday that it would cease fire if Israel did the same.

The Israeli forces released footage on Tuesday, allegedly showing a series of Israeli airstrikes against the Gaza Strip. No Israelis have been killed.

The latest flare-up follows weeks of Israel-Gaza violence which has seen more than 100 Palestinians killed.

The Association of Banks in Israel, an umbrella group representing major Israeli banks, declined to comment on the report.

Israeli forces later stopped and seized the main protest boat as it approached the blockade limit at nine nautical miles, while others were said to have turned back.

It was not immediately clear if Islamic Jihad, a much smaller, Iran-backed militant group, acted independently Tuesday or at least had the tacit blessing of Hamas.

"The Hamas terror organization, who is responsible for this attempt to breach the naval blockade, is trying to carry out a propaganda operation while using its people", the IDF spokesman said in a tweet.

At least 121 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest.

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