On Wednesday night, Israel launched more than 70 rockets towards the Gaza Strip in retaliation to some 150 rockets fired at its territory, reports The Telegraph. The air strikes left three Palestinians dead, including a pregnant mother and a toddler.
The pregnant mother, 23-year-old Enas Khammash, and her 18-month-old daughter Bayan were killed after rockets hit their home in the town of Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. Khammash's husband was left severely injured. A Hamas militant was also killed in the strike and at least 12 other people were injured, although total casualties have still not been confirmed.
Despite actions from Egypt and the U.N. to mediate relations and secure a truce between Israel and Hamas, three incidents have occurred since July. The repeated clashes and protests have sparked fear of a fourth war between the two sides since 2008, according to The Telegraph.
Out of the 150 rockets that were fired towards Israel, 25 were shot down by air defense systems and at least four hit the Israeli border town of Sderot, causing several injuries. Israeli militants reportedly targeted 140 Hamas military sites in their retaliation, specifically locations where weapons were being manufactured for the Islamist movement.
Reports from the military wing of Hamas assumed responsibility for the rockets fired at Israel, saying that they targeted "enemy positions in the Gaza envelope."
The Telegraph quotes the Israeli military as saying that they were "determined to secure the safety of the citizens of Israel and [are] on high alert and prepared for a wide variety of scenarios."
Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. envoy for the Middle East conflict, reacted in alarm to the airstrikes, announcing that all sides should "step back from the brink."
"For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants," he expressed in a statement. "Our collective efforts have prevented the situation from exploding until now. If the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people."
The airstrikes fall on the heels of a meeting that shed a glimmer of hope on possible progress in terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations. High-level Hamas officials met in Gaza earlier this week to discuss Egyptian and U.N. proposals to maintain a cease-fire with Israel and remove the Israeli and Egyptian-imposed blockade of Gaza, reported The New York Times.
While a senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayya, hinted that Hamas was open to a deal earlier on Wednesday, he accused Israel of violating the cease-fire deal and added that Hamas would not allow Israel "to impose new equations or rules of engagement on the ground."