State Department Condemns Hamas Rocket Attacks, Supports ‘Israel’s Right to Defend Itself’

State Department Condemns Hamas Rocket Attacks, Supports ‘Israel’s Right to Defend Itself’

Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special envoy who is involved in Egyptian efforts to broker a truce, said in a statement on Thursday that he's "deeply alarmed" by "multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel" the day before.

Over the past four months, 163 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 protesters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a local rights group.

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Egypt and the United Nations are trying to mediate a truce to prevent the escalation in fighting turning into another all-out war over Gaza, a narrow strip of land that is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from Israel in war at its founding in 1948.

According to the IDF statement, the building served Hamas to manage internal security throughout the Gaza Strip and some of the unit's personnel were also active in the terrorist organization's military wing.

Hamas warned Israel it would pay for the attack, and on Wednesday the army said shots were fired at civilian engineers working on an underground barrier along the border, prompting the military to respond with tank fire.

The building was not publicly known to include facilities for Hamas.

Israeli air forces pounded the Gaza Strip overnight, targeting over 100 sites in the besieged coastal enclave. Across the border rocket warning sirens sounded nearly non-stop from sunset on Wednesday in Israeli towns and villages where residents sheltered in bunkers. On the micro level, Kershner notes that military said that one specific strike "hit a vehicle that it said was carrying a squad that had just launched a rocket at Israeli territory".

A pregnant Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old child were killed in the Israeli attacks, as was a Hamas militant.

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The strike hit a building that Palestinians say housed a cultural center and other offices in the middle of the city, an AFP correspondent said.

Israel's military reported seven civilians wounded. The ministry said Khammash was also pregnant.

The health ministry added that around 12 Palestinians were injured, two critically, and were transferred to the hospital for treatment.

In a statement, Hamas added that they hold Israel responsible for the latest escalation and called for worldwide intervention "to prevent the rapid escalation on the ground".

"What I can say is that we targeted by definition only military targets that were clearly used by Hamas where there was an active presence of Hamas and nothing else", he told journalists on Thursday morning.

Israel's latest bombing campaign in Gaza comes just weeks after Israeli F-16s carried out "wide-scale" airstrikes throughout the occupied territory. Some rockets landed in the communities, and many others were shot down by the Iron Dome, which is created to intercept only rockets headed towards population centers.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the worldwide community to "immediately and urgently intervene". Rocket sirens were still sounding in Israeli neighborhoods on Wednesday evening, while strikes in Gaza continued.

"If the current escalation, however, is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people", he said in a statement.

At least 165 Palestinians have killed by Israeli fire since then.

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