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Air Strikes, Rocket Attacks Push Israel, Gaza Into Second Day Of Fighting

PARIS, France - Israel stuck in Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli cities on Saturday after an Israeli operations against the Islamic Jihad militant group ended more than a year of relative calm along the border.

Israel on Friday killed one of the group's senior commanders in a surprise daytime air strike on a high - rise building in Gaza City which drew rocket salvoes in response.

On Saturday, Israel said it struck Islamic Jihad militants preparing to launch rockets and militant posts. Additional bombing targeted five houses, witnesses said, spending huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air as explosions rocked Gaza City.

Palestinian militants fired at least 160 rocket across the border, setting off air rids sirens and sending people running to bomb shelters as far as the central Israeli city of Modiin, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Most of the missiles were intercepted and there were no reports of serious casualties, according to the Israeli ambulance service.

Egyptian, U.N. and Qatari efforts to end the fighting were underway. Further escalation would largely depend on whether Hamas, the Islamic militant group which controls Gaza, would opt to join the fighting.

The Israeli strikes have killed 14 Palestinians, including at least four more Islamic Jihad militants and a child, and gave wounded at least 110 people, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Islamic Jihad did not provide precise details on how many of its members had been killed and signalled no immediate ceasefires. 'The time now is for resistance, not a truce', a group official told Reuters.

Overnight, the Israeli military said it had apprehended 19 Islamic Jihad militants in raids in the Israeli - occupied West Bank while targeting the group's rocket manufacturing sites and launches in Gaza.

Around 2.3 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, with Israel and Egypt tightly restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and imposing a naval blockade, citing security concerns.

The U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennnesland said he was deeply concerned about the violence and the Western - backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israerl's attacks.


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