Gaza border protests called off after Israel air raids - organizers

Rockets fired from Gaza target Tel Aviv for first time since 2014

Cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas group appeared to be winding down Friday, amid reports of an Egyptian-brokered truce and Israeli media saying a misfire was believed to be responsible for the rare Gaza rocket attack on Tel Aviv that triggered the exchange.

About four hours after the launches, the IDF announced it had begun striking targets in Gaza in response.

Rocket fire toward Israel's southern communities near the Gaza Strip is common, but Tel Aviv is rarely targeted. Israeli media suggested that the terror group might have resorted to the rocket attack on Israel in order to divert attention away from the rising civilian turmoil.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Hamas possesses a vast arsenal of rockets and missiles, but it has sought to contain violence with Israel since the last war in 2014.

The escalation followed weeks of growing tensions and came at an especially sensitive time ahead of Israel's April 9 elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as the country's defense minister, met with his military chiefs to decide on Israel's response. His political opponents have also criticized Netanyahu's decision to allow Qatar to deliver $15 million a month into Gaza to pay salaries of Hamas civil servants. The blockade, along with sanctions by the rival Palestinian Authority and Hamas' own mismanagement have fuelled an economic crisis that has driven unemployment over 50 per cent. Residents have little desire for another war with Israel.

Earlier Thursday, Hamas police violently broke up a small protest over the harsh living conditions.

The apparent rocket fire came in response to Israeli airstrikes, launched after an early rocket attack on Tel Aviv.

In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the Hamas Interior Ministry said the rocket fire went "against the national consensus" and promised to take action against the perpetuators. Israel's military has responded with widespread airstrikes.

Israel responded with warplanes, which hit 100 Hamas "terror sites", a statement from the Israel Defense Force said. As well as the strip's rulers, Hamas, other armed factions operate in the territory, including Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed organisation that has launched rockets in the past.

A delegation from Egypt, which has acted as mediator between Israel and Hamas, was in Gaza before the strikes and reportedly left after warnings.

It is possible that the political echelon felt they could not ignore the launch against Israel's most dense population area, regardless of the enemy's intent.

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