Bennett slams Hamas 'ceasefire', predicting escalation in violence


Despite a couple of lower-level exchanges of fire overnight, calm returned to the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning after a day that saw dozens of Israeli air strikes, killing two Palestinians, while some 200 rockets and mortars were fired from the enclave into Israel. The Gaza Health Ministry said the two, 15 and 16, died when the building they were standing near was hit.

According to witnesses, the two teenagers who lost their lives were playing on the roof of a semi-abandoned building.

A militia allied with Hamas said it has launched rockets and mortars into Israel in response, and Israeli news media said there the area close to strip was on high alert.

In response, the Israeli military conducted an airstrike against a group of Palestinians it said was launching incendiary balloons toward Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, east of the city of Rafah.

But Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said the Israeli attacks should not be seen as the start of a military campaign against the Palestinian territory of 2 million, devastated by seven weeks of war with Israel four years ago.

A spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister did not immediately comment on the ceasefire.

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The rare strike in the heart of Gaza City blew out windows at a nearby mosque, an art gallery, government offices, a tech start-up company and dozens of houses, leaving light fixtures and wiring dangling.

The Israeli army reportedly notified Hamas in recent days that if the incendiary kite and balloon attacks from the Gaza Strip don't cease, Israel would respond with major military action.

Israel said it was focused on hitting militant targets and was warning Gaza civilians to keep their distance from certain sites.

Three people were wounded in Israel when a rocket struck the southern town of Sderot, police said.

A 15-year-old Palestinian who tried to climb over the fence into Israel was shot dead.

Hamas has stopped short of claiming responsibility for the rocket fire but one official earlier called it a "deterrent to further Israeli attacks".

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Stating that Hamas' stance over the cease-fire was "clear", Qassem also said that Palestinian groups would take a joint stance after consulting each other.

"We have no intention of tolerating rockets, kites, drones or anything", said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

With Israel focused on efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in neighboring Syria, it has been wary of escalating violence in Gaza.

Clashes in eastern Gaza with the Israeli army forces resumed Friday as part of rallies and protests organised since March 30.

According to the IDF, a military officer was lightly wounded by a grenade thrown at the border on Friday.

There have been no Israeli fatalities during the so-called "Great March of Return" demonstrations but big tracts of Israeli land have been ravaged by fires set by blazing kites or helium balloons carrying burning rags floated over from Gaza.

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