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Hamas leader warns Israel over 'incursions' after days of air strikes

Ismail Haniyeh says operations in Gaza will not start a new war, but vows Israel will not impose 'new rules' on territory
Haniyeh, seen here in 2015, says Hamas has sent 'multiple messages' to Israel (AFP)

The leader of Hamas in Gaza has said his group would not, "under any circumstances", accept Israeli incursions into the territory after a third day of air strikes by Israeli jets in response to mortar fire.

Ismail Haniyeh's comments on Friday came during the worst violence in Gaza since the end of the 2014 war, in which 2,200 Palestinians and 72 Israelis died.

"We are not calling for a new war, but we will not under any circumstance accept these incursions," Haniyeh said.

Haniyeh said that Israeli forces had intruded "150m to 199m on the pretext of searching for tunnels".

"We sent multiple messages that the resistance will not allow the Israeli occupation army to impose new rules within the borders of the Gaza Strip."

He said the movement would not accept the "so-called buffer zone", referring to a 100m-wide strip along the border but inside Gazan territory where the Israeli army has said it reserves the right to operate.

Israel said this week that it had uncovered two Hamas tunnels stretching into Israel, and bombed several alleged Hamas training sites inside the strip.

Human rights groups continued to express concern about the crisis. According to Rami Abdu, chairman of Euro-Mid Monitor for Human Rights, over the past 48 hours 29 artillery shells and 11 air strikes have hit the strip.

Israeli aircraft hit a Hamas "terror infrastructure" in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday morning in response to cross-border mortar fire, the Israeli army said.

Palestinian witnesses said there were two sets of air raids, one targeting Beit Lahia in northern Gaza and the second in Khuzaa, southeast of Khan Yunis, in the south of the territory.

It was the fourth air raid on Gaza since Wednesday. There were no reports of any casualties.

Middle East Eye reporter Mohammed Omer wrote on Twitter that Israeli jets had been flying low over Gaza in the early hours of the morning.

On Thursday, Israeli tank fire killed Zeina al-Amour, 54, in her Gaza home. Israel said the fire was responding to a mortar bomb attack from the area.

Gaza’s health ministry said five civilians had been injured, including three children.

Since the clashes broke out, Hamas or other militant groups have fired at least 10 mortar rounds across the frontier, and the Israeli air force has carried out four strikes on Gaza.

Israeli tanks stationed on the border have also fired repeatedly at what the army said were Hamas targets.