Israel strikes Gaza after its soldiers come under fire

On The Attack Israel Launches Wide Offensive Against Hamas in Gaza

Friday's violence comes after almost four months of protests by Palestinians along the fence with Israel. It did not say if any Israeli soldiers were hurt in the shooting.

Since March, Palestinians have regularly protested at the fence dividing Gaza from Israel-calling for an end to Israel's blockade and to be allowed to return to the land from which they fled during the 1948 war with Israel.

The Hebrew-language official Israeli TV reported that "it would be different if Hamas responds with shells or rockets".

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 told Reuters. Gaza's ministry of health said that other people were injured.

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".

On Friday, a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along the border - the first casualty Israel has sustained in the Strip in four years.

"The event that happened today is something that we can not tolerate and can not allow to become a routine norm, that's why we retaliated and that's why we continue to target military targets belonging to Hamas", Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

Using tanks, warplanes, and artillery fire, on Friday the Israeli army launched a major attack on the Gaza Strip, allegedly in response to gunfire towards its soldiers along the fence, according to Israeli sources.

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Israel's military said it had targeted "eight military posts" belonging to Hamas.

Explosion is seen following an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip. Israel and Hamas have fought three such wars over the past decade and Hamas agreed to the second such cease-fire in a week under heavy Egyptian and worldwide pressure.

The massive air strikes, which killed four Palestinians, came after a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along the border.

Israeli media reported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received an emergency briefing from the army on the violence.

"Any reasonable person who sees the... farmland that has been scorched [by incendiary kites and balloons] understands the intolerable nature of the situation", he told a group of Israelis living near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

'The ceasefire is crucial and shows neither side wants war but it's only temporary reprieve'.

Lieberman has raised the threat of a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip if Hamas does not stop the kites and balloons being launched. He said they would be returned only as part of a deal similar to that in 2011 under which captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

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