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Israel launches strikes on Gaza, putting 'ceasefire' in jeopardy

Israeli officials have disputed claims by Hamas leaders that a ceasefire was reached to end this week's violence
House of Palestinian family targeted by an Israeli air raid in Gaza City (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

Israel has struck several targets in the besieged Gaza Strip, potentially shattering a ceasefire that Hamas said was negotiated between Egypt and Israel.

Israel's military attacked a Hamas compound and a weapons site in the Khan Younis district, Haaretz reported, citing an Israeli army spokesperson.

Late on Tuesday, a rocket from Gaza hit Israel's Ashkelon region and did not cause any casualties or damage, Israel's military said.

The strikes by Israel on Tuesday night came one day after a rocket from Gaza hit a house north of Tel Aviv.

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Contrary to Hamas's claim, Israeli media outlets Haaretz and Ynet reported on Tuesday that a ceasefire had not been reached to end this week's flare-up in violence in the Gaza Strip.

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The Israeli military bombed several targets in Gaza throughout the day on Monday, including the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and a Palestinian family's home in central Gaza City.

The violence began after a rocket fired from the besieged Palestinian territory hit a town in central Israel, wounding seven people.

Israel was quick to accuse Hamas of being behind the attack, but the Palestinian group denied responsibility.

An unidentified official in Gaza told AFP on Monday that the rocket may have been triggered unintentionally due to "bad weather".

As fears of an all-out Israeli war mounted, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said late on Monday that a ceasefire was reached.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, seven Palestinians were injured overnight by the Israeli air strikes.

On Tuesday afternoon, a rocket fired from Gaza fell into an open area in Israel, triggering rocket alert sirens, Haaretz reported. The rocket did not cause any damage or injuries, the Israeli newspaper said.

An unnamed Gaza official told Reuters that Tuesday's rocket attack was an "individual" act, not approved by Hamas or any other armed group in the Palestinian territory.

'We will do what is necessary'

Still, Israeli officials have called for a harsh response against Hamas.

Speaking to pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC's annual conference on Tuesday, via video feed from Israel, Netanyahu said "great force" was used to respond to Hamas.

"In the last 24 hours, the [Israeli army] destroyed major Hamas terrorist installations on a scale not seen since the end of the military operation in Gaza four years ago ... And I can tell you, we are prepared to do a lot more," the Israeli premier said.

"We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state."

His remarks come just two weeks before the Israeli elections, in which he is facing a major challenge from former Israeli army general Benny Gantz.

Israel's far-right education minister, Naftali Bennett, a Netanyahu ally, urged the country's military to use brute force to "neutralise" Hamas, warning against taking a weak stand against the Palestinian group.

"If you run from terror - the terror will follow you," he said on Tuesday, as reported by Haaretz.

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