Netanyahu Orders 'Massive Strikes' Against Hamas in Gaza

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2019-05-05

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VOA's Linda Gradstein in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the army to keep up "massive strikes" against Hamas targets in Gaza in the deadliest fighting along the border in five years.

An exchange of rocket fire and airstrikes has killed at least 20 Palestinians since Friday

They include a 14-month-old baby and her aunt killed by what Hamas calls an Israeli strike. Israeli intelligence says a misfired Palestinian rocket killed them. Neither claim could be verified.

Four Israelis have also died -- the first civilian deaths in Israel from cross-border attacks since 2014. One man died when a rocket directly hit his house and another was killed when a factory was bombed.

Palestinian militants have shot more than 600 rockets and other missiles into Israel since Friday. Israel says the smaller military group Islamic Jihad fired the rockets, but it holds Hamas, which controls Gaza, responsible.

The Israeli military says it retaliated with airstrikes on more than 260 Hamas targets inside Gaza.

An Israeli airstrike also killed a Hamas commander, who Israel says was responsible for funneling money from Iran to the militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered extra forces to the border with Gaza in preparation for a possible ground incursion.

Israeli analyst Neri Zibler told I24 News that Netanyahu does not want a war with Hamas.

"The greater good is to avoid needless wars. A war that you get into, you do not know how you will get out of it. A war that you go into and will most likely reach a conclusion and bring us back to the exact point we are in at the moment," he said.

The current fighting was apparently sparked when an Islamic Jihad sniper wounded two Israeli soldiers Friday.

The Palestinians accuse Israel of failing to implement an Egyptian-brokered agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt in rocket attacks.

The fighting comes on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and as Israel gets ready for Independence Day celebrations later this week.

Israel also hosts the eagerly awaited annual Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv later this month.