Israeli offensive in Gaza continues as ceasefire efforts appear to falter
Egypt, which has mediated in previous rounds of fighting, had begun trying to broker a ceasefire, Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawoud Shehab told Reuters.
A state-run Egyptian news station announced however that Cairo had brokered a ceasefire, but fighting intensified late on Wednesday.
In a primetime television address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israel had dealt a harsh blow to the groups in Gaza. But he cautioned: “This round is not over.”
“We see you everywhere. You can’t hide and we choose the place and time to strike you,” he said, adding that Israel would choose when to restore calm.
Since Tuesday morning, Israeli fighter jets launched air strikes in several locations across Gaza, including in Rafah, Khan Younis, Beit Lahia, and other areas. The Israeli military dubbed its new offensive in the besieged Strip, "Operation Shield and Arrow".
The Palestinian health ministry said at least 21 Palestinians were killed during the bombings, including five children. At least 64 others have been wounded.
The Israeli military said it hit more than 50 targets, including rocket-launching sites, as blasts sounded across Gaza. The Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad said three Gaza houses, which appeared to have been evacuated after warnings, were struck after dark on Wednesday.
The Palestinian Joint Command, an umbrella body of armed factions in Gaza, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, launched rockets toward Israel in response, targeting Tel Aviv, Sderot, Ashkelon, and other areas in central and southern Israel.
The Israeli offensive comes a week after a brief exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza left one Palestinian killed and two Israelis wounded.
It is the largest attack mounted by Israel against Gaza since August last year, when the military assassinated senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Tayseer al-Jabari, triggering a three-day exchange of fire.
At least 49 Palestinians were killed in the 2022 Israeli bombardment, including 17 children, and 360 others were wounded.
More than two million Palestinians are packed into Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas. Under blockade by Israel since 2006, the besieged coastal enclave has been described as "the world's largest open-air prison".
Israel also deployed its mid-range air defence missile system, David's Sling, in operations for the first time during Wednesday's cross-border fighting with Gaza fighters, two Israeli military sources said.
David's Sling, designed to shoot down rockets fired from 100 km to 200 km (62 to 124 miles) away, is part of Israel's shield and is developed and manufactured jointly by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and the US defence contractor, Raytheon.