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Palestinian Rockets, Israeli Airstrikes Heat Up Gaza Border


Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip, June 20, 2018.

Palestinian militants fired 45 rockets and mortars Wednesday at southern Israel, rattling farming communities on the Gaza border. The Israeli military said it responded with airstrikes on 25 facilities belonging to Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.

Violence has flared on the Gaza frontier for nearly three months, and it could intensify. Palestinians have been flying burning kites across the border causing massive damage to Israeli crops and nature reserves, and there is growing pressure in Israel for harsher retaliation.

An Israeli tractor extinguishes a fire started by a kite with attached burning cloth launched by Palestinians from Gaza, on the Israel and Gaza border, June 20, 2018.
An Israeli tractor extinguishes a fire started by a kite with attached burning cloth launched by Palestinians from Gaza, on the Israel and Gaza border, June 20, 2018.

The right-wing Israeli government has avoided targeting the kite flyers, fearing that Palestinian casualties will spark more violence and, possibly, the fourth Gaza war in the past 10 years. But that policy is facing intense criticism from within the ruling coalition.

Shuli Mualem of the hawkish Jewish Home party says rockets and burning kites are both acts of terror, and Israel has a responsibility to take tougher action to protect its citizens.

Hamas says it is responding to Israeli "aggression" and the killing of at least 125 Palestinians during protests, which began at the end of March.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said the Palestinians do not want war, but he warned that the tit-for-tat attacks could lead to an "explosion."

It is similar to the situation prior to the last Gaza war four years ago: a bloody, 50-day conflict that neither side said it wanted.

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