Militants in Gaza and Israeli forces engaged in a bloody and spiralling clash over the weekend, with Palestinian factions launching hundreds of rockets towards towns and cities in Israel, which retaliated with more than 250 strikes.
In exchanges that marked some of the worst fighting in recent years, 19 Palestinians, including two pregnant women and a toddler, have been killed since hostilities began on Friday, the health ministry in Gaza said. The dead included at least eight militants and a Hamas commander killed in the first targeted assassination Israel has conducted in the strip for years.
Four Israelis were reported as killed by rockets, the highest death toll on the Israeli side since the 50-day war in 2014.
The violence is following a pattern established over the past year in which short-lived exchanges have erupted on a near-monthly basis, usually dying down quickly under Egyptian and UN mediation. However, the battling sides vowed to pursue each other aggressively on Sunday and moved further than in previous flare-ups.
Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the armed forces to conduct “massive strikes” on Gaza and reinforce the edge of the enclave with tanks, artillery and soldiers.
“This morning, I instructed the [military] to continue massive attacks against terrorist elements in the Gaza strip. I also ordered the reinforcement of the units around the Gaza strip with armour, artillery and infantry,” the prime minister said.