The tit-for-tat battles between Israel and Hamas has intensified as Israeli military strikes on Gaza kill five people in retaliation for an anti-tank missile the Palestinians hurled into the southern Israel.
The short fired at Israel hit an empty bus, and wounded two people. It is believed to be the first time an anti-tank missile was used against civilian targets in Israel.
Hamas took credit for the bus attack and said it was in retaliation for an earlier Israeli offensive against Gaza which killed three of its militants.
The US State Department condemned the Palestinian attack on the school bus. Spokesman Mark Toner said there was no justification of the targeting of innocent civilians.
Specifically, according to reports, in the latest onslaught, an Israeli warplane bombarded a Hamas compound in northern Gaza; and also they also hit the cities of Gaza City and Rafah.
In addition, Israeli helicopters machine-gunned a target in Gaza.
Israeli’s defense minister Ehud Barak ordered the military action, since he sees Hamas as responsible for every attack originating in Gaza, he said a statement.
It is believed that all of Hamas’ senior members have gone into hiding, in fear of more bombing raids.
The Israeli military’s response against Gaza also injured 35 people.
Israel also said that it had defended itself against two other missiles fired from Gaza through the use of a new missile-defense system.
Two rockets fired at the city of Ashkelon were destroyed in mid-flight by an Israeli interceptor missile.
Our Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two projectiles successfully, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also said that Israel will take any necessary steps to stop attacks from Gaza.
We hope this situation will be contained but we will not shy away from taking all the necessary action, offensive and defensive, to protect our country and to protect our citizens, Netanyahu during a visit to Prague.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Western powers to intervene in the Gaza-Israel conflict, but also urged Hamas militants to refrain from attacking Israel.
A senior Hamas official told Al Jazeera: The Israelis are trying to impose a new formula in Gaza. They are trying to prevent us from taking any benefits in the region. They are trying to escalate the situation ... The coming few days will carry a lot of developments if things continue like this.