The Israel Defence Forces claimed that mounting violence began Wednesday after militants shot at an IDF vehicle near Gaza.
Since Wednesday evening Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave bombarded Israeli border communities with a salvo of over 200 rockets in total whilst rocket sirens sounded intermittently, prompting Israel to respond forcefully and pound approximately 150 Hamas "military targets" including three attack tunnels and a military facility close to Rafah. The Iron Dome anti-missile battery, programmed to intercept missiles that go to residential areas, shot down 25 rockets. At least two Israelis were injured by glass shards, the medical organization Magen David Adom reported.
In response, Israel responded with tank fire, which provoked a barrage of rocket fire into Israel and further airstrikes in Gaza.
Israeli media said the European Union had prepared a plan for transport in the occupied West Bank which included "the establishment of an airport, a port and a railway to link the Gaza Strip with the West Bank". Schools were closed on Thursday morning in Gaza, as warning sirens continued to blare. At least eight other civilians in Gaza were also injured, the ministry said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of the security cabinet due to the growing tensions in the Gaza Strip which was attended by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and senior commanders.
A fireball exploding during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City. Hamas said two of its fighters were killed.
Hamas continued firing rockets during the night.More news: Congressman Collins, son charged with insider trading
Lt. -Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli army spokesperson, insisted Israel only targeted Hamas military targets in Gaza.
A baby and her pregnant mother were among three Palestinians killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza overnight Wednesday, officials said, as the Jewish state struck a series of targets.
The last four months have seen an upsurge in violence along the Gaza-Israel border.
Israel has been battling large fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices or burning rags launched from Gaza that have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife and livestock.
The Hamas deputy chief Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera TV on Wednesday that talks mediated by the United Nations and Egypt to bring calm to the region were in "advanced stages." according to Reuters. "If the current escalation is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people".
The flare-up comes as Egypt is trying to broker a long-term ceasefire between the two sides.
It stated that the two fighters were part of a military training in "Asqalan" center, one of its training locations in northern Gaza, and that many Palestinians, including political leaders of Hamas, were in attendance. "We are closing in on operation in Gaza", the senior IDF official told Israeli media outlets, speaking on condition of anonymity.