Middle East

Gaza militants and Israel exchange strikes despite 'truce'

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Media captionThe BBC's Quentin Sommerville says Wednesday saw the heaviest barrage for about two years

Rocket and air strikes have continued between Gaza militants and Israel despite Palestinian claims a truce had been restored.

Several rockets hit Israeli soil on Thursday and Israel's military said it had launched retaliatory air strikes.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad earlier said a deal had been made to resume a 2012 ceasefire agreement. Israel did not confirm this.

The day before saw the heaviest barrage of rockets since the 2012 conflict.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said about 60 rockets hit Israel on Wednesday.

It said eight more rockets struck Israel on Thursday, after which Israel attacked seven "terror sites" in Gaza.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for any attacks from Gaza

There have been no Israeli casualties. Reuters news agency quoted witnesses as saying that three Palestinians were wounded, without identifying whether they were civilians or militants.

Islamic Jihad's leader in Gaza, Khaled al-Batch, earlier announced that Egypt had helped broker a deal to resume a 2012 ceasefire agreement and that the truce would resume if the Israelis complied.

"Following intensive Egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for calm has been restored in accordance with understandings reached in 2012 in Cairo," he said on Facebook.

Moments earlier, Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said Israel would "continue... to eliminate threats as they develop".

He said: "This is our obligation and responsibility to those exposed to Gaza terrorism."

Explosions heard

Israel has carried out dozens of air strikes since Wednesday, hitting bases of Gaza's Hamas government and the al-Quds Brigades across the territory.

Islamic Jihad said it fired the rockets on Wednesday in retaliation for the killing of three of its militants in an Israeli air strike the day before. Israel says it attacked the militants immediately after they launched mortars at Israeli soldiers.

Air raid sirens went off in the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon on Thursday when the latest volley of rockets was fired.

The rockets hit open areas, but landed deeper in Israel than on the previous day, AP reported.

On Wednesday Israel carried out 29 air strikes. The BBC's Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza City said explosions could be heard across the territory.

Hamas insisted it did not take part in firing the rockets but accused Israel of provoking the attacks by Islamic Jihad.

AP quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying Israel bore "full responsibility" for the escalation.

Israel said it holds Hamas responsible for any attacks from Gaza.

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