Israel pounds Gaza after Palestinian sniper kills IDF soldier

Israel pounds Gaza after Palestinian sniper kills IDF soldier

But the Israeli army said a tank struck a Hamas observation point east of Gaza City on Saturday morning, saying it was retaliation for an attempted border infiltration in northern Gaza.

Israeli jets and tanks hit Hamas positions in Gaza last night and Palestinian militants fired across the border fence as tensions escalated, prompting the United Nations to urge both sides to "step back from the brink".

More than 140 Palestinians have been killed, including one this Friday, and thousands injured in violent clashes with Israel's military during the weekly demonstrations.

Gaza's militant Hamas rulers said Saturday they had accepted a cease-fire ending a massive Israeli onslaught on militant positions after a soldier was shot dead, once again pulling the sides back from the brink of a full-fledged war.

At least four Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists were reported killed in air strikes and artillery shelling by the IDF, as well as an undetermined number of wounded, according to Arab media.

Egyptian security officials and a diplomat from another unnamed state held contacts with Hamas and Israel in an effort to restore calm and prevent further deterioration, a Palestinian official said.

Palestinians have been protesting every Friday since March 30, demanding their right to return to the homes and land their families were expelled from 70 years ago.

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Israeli war jets are hovering over Gaza, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, but did not give any end date for the offensive.

The air raids came after the Israeli military said one of its soldiers had been killed as a result of a shooting carried out from Gaza. But here has been disagreement over how to do that, with concern in many quarters that aid should not bolster Hamas.

In recent weeks, Palestinian activists in Gaza have been flying kites and balloons over Israeli territory as part of ongoing popular rallies along the buffer zone.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who holds little sway over Hamas, called for worldwide intervention to prevent an escalation of the violence, his office said.

Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, blamed Hamas for escalating tensions over the past three and a half months, since the beginning of the Hamas-orchestrated mass protests along the border fence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, arrived at military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday night for emergency meetings with top officials, a highly unusual event for the start of Sabbath.

"In the face of Zionist threats, we say the resistance will continue, the marches will continue and its tools will continue to vary and take different forms, including the kites", he said. "[Israel] will not see them until they pay the price, just like they did for Shalit", Mr.al-Hayya said.

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