United Nations appeals for calm as hostilities in Israel, Gaza threaten ceasefire efforts

A Military Police car blocks a road leading to Zikim beach after it was closed to visitors due to escalating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel

A senior Israeli Defense Forces official warned Hamas in a tweet that it "will understand in the coming hours, as in the past months, that this is not the direction it wants to chose".

The country's Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 11 of the roughly 70 launches, the army said, while most of the others landed in open areas.

On Thursday, the IDF destroyed a five-story building allegedly housing Hamas' internal security service and offices of the group's senior officials.in response to a rocket fired at Beersheba, almost 40km from the border with Gaza. Red Alert sirens continued to sound in the South throughout the night, with the latest salvo fired at 05:45 am Thursday morning.

A senior IDF official asserted Thursday morning that the escalation in the south might lead to a broad campaign in Gaza which would the evacuation of communities along the border.

Seven Israelis were wounded by rocket shrapnel, while three Palestinians including a 23-year-old pregnant woman and her 18-month-old child were killed in airstrikes.

The ministry reported another six other Palestinians were injured as a result of the IDF strikes.

Yoav Galant, Israeli cabinet minister for construction and housing, said that "whatever is needed to be done to defend our civilians and soldiers will be done, no matter what would be the price in Gaza".

An explosion rocks Gaza following an Israeli air strike on August 8, 2018. The UN has also urged both sides to come back from the brink.

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The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, issued a statement denouncing the Israeli assassination of two of its fighters, in northern Gaza, and holding Israel accountable for any future escalation.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

Israel has been battling large fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices or burning rags launched from Gaza that have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife and livestock.

Lt Col Conricus would not comment on Israeli media reports of troops preparing for a possible ground operation, but said Israel "had ground troops that are ready to deploy".

Shortly after, the BBC responded to the Israeli complaints and edited the headline slightly by adding "after rockets hit Israel" without explaining the reason behind the edit.

Israel's defense chief said last month that Gaza's only commercial border crossing, Keren Shalom, would reopen if calm persisted.

Both the United Nations and Egypt have not publicly discussed their plans for a renewed Gaza ceasefire, but have said it would bring economic relief to Gaza's two million residents experiencing shortages under crippling blockades. It also disputed Israel's account, saying shots were fired as part of a graduation ceremony for a group of fighters inside the camp.

Jason Greenblatt, a United States envoy who has been involved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, pointed a finger squarely at Hamas for the escalation of violence.

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