GAZA/JERUSALEM • Rockets from Gaza killed three people in an Israeli city while five Palestinian militants died yesterday in surging cross-border fighting that saw a return by Israel to singling out enemy commanders for attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he ordered the military to continue "massive strikes" against Gaza's ruling Hamas group and the smaller Islamic Jihad faction, in the most serious border clashes since November.
Israel's military said more than 450 rockets, many of them intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, have been fired at southern Israeli cities and villages since last Friday, and it attacked some 220 targets belonging to Gaza militant groups.
A rocket that hit a house in Ashkelon killed a 58-year-old Israeli, police said. He was the first Israeli civilian fatality since the seven-week-long Gaza war in 2014. Separate strikes on the southern Israeli city killed two men, a local hospital official said.
In Gaza, at least four Palestinian gunmen were killed in Israeli strikes, health officials said. In a separate strike it described as a targeted attack, Israel's military killed Hamad al-Khodori, a Hamas commander. The military said he was responsible for transferring funds from Iran to armed factions in Gaza. The air strike on his car was the first such killing of a top militant since the war five years ago. Israel had suspended such attacks in a bid to lower tensions.
The latest violence began two days ago when a sniper from Islamic Jihad fired at Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers, the Israeli military said. The group had accused Israel of delaying the implementation of previous understandings brokered by Egypt aimed at ending violence and easing blockaded Gaza's economic hardship.
Israeli analysts said Islamic Jihad and Hamas seemed to believe they have leverage to seek concessions from Israel, where independence day celebrations begin on Wednesday and the Eurovision Song Contest will be hosted in two weeks.
For Gaza residents, the escalation comes ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in the territory today.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE