Gaza-Israel tensions flare after night of violence threatening ceasefire hopes

Israeli security forces and firefighters gather near a bus set ablaze after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave

Hamas, the group that governs Gaza, said in a statement that it was collaborating on the strikes against Israel with rival factions including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and several other armed groups.

Israel said it identified 17 launches toward its territory, three of which were intercepted by missile defenses.

A statement issued by militant groups in Gaza said Ashdod, a major Israeli port just north of Ashkelon, and Beersheba, the biggest city in southern Israel, would be hit next if Israel didn't cease fire.

The shelling from the Gaza Strip, which triggered the airstrikes, directly hit a bus in Kfar Aza earlier in the day, wounding at least one person, according to Israeli television channels.

Firing 10 missiles at the Al-Aqsa TV station, Israeli jets destroyed its headquarters, witnesses said.

In Gaza, Israeli missiles flattened seven buildings, mostly in Gaza City including the TV station. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen Flames rise after a rocket attack in Sderot, near the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border, November 12, 2018.

The Palestinians believe it was an assassination operation - a claim denied by the Israelis.

Israel's air force conducted a series of strikes against targets in the coastal enclave, the IDF said.

Abu Rokon warned, "The State of Israel will continue to respond harshly against any terrorist activity or rocket fire by the terrorist organization Hamas".

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have locked themselves into an escalating firefight, launching scores of bombings and reprisal attacks in violence sparked by a botched Israeli special forces raid miles inside Gaza on Sunday evening.

Six Palestinians were killed in the Israeli strikes, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side. The burials of several of those killed were led by Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh.

On Sunday, Netanyahu defended his decision to allow through the Qatari cash to Gaza as a way to avert an "unnecessary war", maintain quiet for residents of southern Israel and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

In an apparent attempt to defuse tensions, Israel's chief military spokesman said the special forces had not been dispatched to assassinate Hamas commanders, a tactic that led to wider conflict in the past and which has largely been abandoned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a visit to Paris because of the incident, returning to Israel on Monday for consultations with top security officials.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, called the situation "unacceptable" and said Israel had hit more than 30 targets belonging to Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza, and Islamic Jihad, another large extremist group in the territory.

"An independent probe into the atrocious Israeli crimes should be declared right now, and Hamas is ready to provide all proof of the Israeli crimes against humanity", the group said late Monday, calling on the United Nations to indict Israel in the International Criminal Court.

Israel permitted Qatar to inject Gaza with $15 million - money for Hamas's civilian government officials - and Egypt was working intensively to try and bridge gaps between Hamas and its bitter internal foe, the PA.

Caught in in this complex web are southern Israeli civilians and Gazan civilians, who are bearing the brunt of Hamas's cynical, violent, and unsafe calculations.

In exchange, Hamas agreed to scale back the protests along the border with Israel. A soldier was severely wounded, it said. Israeli troops have killed more that 220 Palestinians during the confrontations, which have included border breaches.

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