Israel has attacked militant sites in Gaza with jet fighters, after what its authorities claim has been the heaviest barrage of mortar and home-made rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave in years.
The Israeli army said fighter jet air strikes hit 35 targets, including a cross-border tunnel, belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad – Gaza’s main militant groups.
The Israelis claim, an empty kindergarten was hit when militants fired more than 30 mortars earlier in the day.
The flare-up follows weeks of deadly violence on the Gaza-Israel border.
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers amid protests, which saw thousands of Palestinians mass on the border in support of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.
Israel said its snipers had opened fire on attackers or people attempting to infiltrate under cover of protests, but UN and human right officials have accused Israel of using disproportionate force.
Israeli fighter jets struck seven sites across the Gaza Strip, hitting what the Israeli military claimed were “six military compounds, munition storage warehouses, naval targets, and terror headquarters”.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “Hamas and Islamic Jihad have already paid a heavy price and the bill has just been presented to them.”
Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Education said a school was hit by shrapnel from Tuesday’s air strikes, though there were no initial reports of Palestinian casualties.
The Israeli military said its air force also struck “an offensive Hamas terror tunnel” near the Kerem Shalom crossing, where controlled amounts of food, fuel and goods are transferred into Gaza.
It is the latest in a series of cross-border tunnels Israel has destroyed or disabled since the end of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.
More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers amid protests, which saw thousands mass in support of Palestinian right to return to their ancestral homes
The Kerem Shalom crossing is a lifeline for Gaza, which has been under an Israeli, then Egyptian, blockade beginning in 2006 when Hamas militants attacked the crossing and kidnapped an Israeli soldier. More shells were launched in subsequent attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. Three Israelis were wounded,
Hours earlier, machine-gun fire from Gaza hit houses and vehicles in the Israeli border town of Sderot, though without causing injuries, the IDF said. The upsurge in violence came after Israeli tank fire killed four people in Gaza in two separate incidents at the start of the week.
A member of Hamas was killed on Monday after Israeli soldiers caught a group attempting to breach the border and carry out an attack, while on Sunday three members of Islamic Jihad were killed after placing an explosive device on the border fence, the IDF said.
This edited report was originally published by the BBC