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Hamas rockets could ignite conflict

 

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

The U.N. Mideast envoy is urging the Security Council to condemn the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Gaza’s Hamas rulers toward Israel, saying this dramatically increases the risk of escalation and a new conflict.

Nikolay Mladenov told the council Tuesday that since 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) on Tuesday, “a fragile calm seems to have taken hold.” He urged all sides “to exercise maximum restraint as the situation remains very tense.”

In the past 10 days, Mladenov said, there have been two rocket attacks from Gaza targeting the Tel Aviv area, “which represents a very serious escalation.”

A rocket launched Monday from Gaza hit a house in central Israel, wounding seven people and sparking the latest escalation.

Over the following 24 hours, Mladenov said, at least 103 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza toward Israel, one damaging a house in Sderot. He said Israel conducted 42 airstrikes on various locations in Gaza and fired 16 shells toward Gaza, wounding seven Palestinians, according to local sources, and destroying several buildings including Hamas offices and security buildings.

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3:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has pounded militant sites in Gaza on a scale not seen since the 2014 war and is “prepared to do a lot more.”

Netanyahu spoke via satellite Tuesday to the AIPAC conference in Washington after abruptly returning home to deal with the escalation of violence with Gaza’s Hamas rulers after a long-range rocket struck a home in central Israel.

The Israeli air force hit dozens of sites of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group. The targets included a multistory building in Gaza City that Israel said had served as a Hamas military intelligence headquarters and the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Netanyahu says Israel will “do whatever is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state.”

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2 p.m.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned home from Washington, heading straight into military consultations after a night of heavy fire as Israeli aircraft bombed Gaza targets and the strip’s militants fired rockets into Israel.

Schools in southern Israel were cancelled following the violence that erupted just two weeks ahead of Israeli elections. The region is quiet but tense on Tuesday, a day after a surprise rocket fired from Gaza slammed into a house in central Israel, wounding seven.

Netanyahu faces the difficult task of delivering a tough blow to Hamas while avoiding protracted fighting that could work against him on election day.

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11:30 a.m.

Officials at a Palestinian university in the West Bank say undercover Israeli forces have raided the campus and arrested three students.

Lubna Abdelhadi, a spokeswoman for the Bir Zeit University, says the armed commandos, disguised as locals, entered the campus early on Tuesday and grabbed the students, believed to be Hamas activists, while they were sleeping.

The students were apparently hiding on campus to try and avoid arrest. The raid happened as Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militants traded fire overnight after a rocket attack from Gaza struck a home in central Israel early on Monday.

Israeli forces had previously raided the university in 2017 and ransacked the student council, confiscating materials used by political groups.

The Israeli military said it arrested nine Palestinian suspects in routine overnight West Bank raids, but would not specify further.

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9 a.m.

A tense quiet has taken hold after a night of heavy fire as Israeli aircraft bombed targets across the Gaza Strip and Gaza militants fired rockets into Israel.

School in southern Israel was cancelled on Tuesday following the violence that erupted just two weeks ahead of Israeli elections.

The cross-border fighting was triggered by a surprise rocket fired early Monday from Gaza that slammed into a house in central Israel and wounded seven people. Gaza’s Hamas rulers announced later in the day that Egyptian mediators had brokered a cease-fire but the firing continued.

The attack prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short a visit to Washington and return home. He promised a tough response, setting the stage for perhaps the most serious conflict since a 50-day war in 2014.


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