Israel pounds Gaza after first rocket fire in weeks

Rocket fired into Israel from Gaza: Israeli army

Some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they did not rule out the possibility that the rocket attacks were carried out by terrorists belonging to a small group that is opposed to Egypt's effort to reach a truce agreement between Hamas and Israel.

The military said another rocket from Gaza landed in the sea, just off the coast of one of the larger cities in central Israel.

The Israeli army registered a rocket launch from the Gaza Strip that resulted in a siren in the city of Beersheba going off.

After the latest strikes, video footage from Beersheba, about 40 km (25 miles) from the Gaza Strip, showed extensive damage to a concrete and stone house in a residential street.

Liberman told reporters that the Israeli cabinet has to decide if it will embark on a large-scale military operation against the Palestinian terror movements in Gaza in light of the wave of attacks against IDF soldiers and civilians in southern Israel.

On Saturday, Israel's Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said fuel deliveries would only resume if there was a "total cessation of violence, the launching of incendiary ballons (from Gaza towards Israel) and the use of burning tyres against Israeli towns" near the enclave.

Israel accuses Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attacks. "Hamas would not do something like this while Egyptian intelligence officials are in the Gaza Strip and hours before the arrival of the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Force".

The top Egyptian official was scheduled to visit Ramallah and the Gaza Strip on Thursday as part of Cairo's effort to avert a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas.

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"What they're doing is sending Palestinian civilians forward, causing them to endanger themselves by attacking Israel and then hoping that these civilian casualties will generate or garner worldwide interest in what's happening and perhaps alleviate the situation in Gaza", he added. It was reported it was due to Gaza rocket fire, a claim Hamas denies.

Some 20 Palestinians managed to cross the border during Friday's protest.

"Last night Hamas took actions which force us to strike a range of weapon production facilities, military compounds and underground infrastructure".

Keren Kayemet L'Israel - the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) also said attacks from arson balloons and kites from Gaza since April have destroyed more than half of the forested areas surrounding the border with Gaza.

The protests intensified as Egyptian-mediated cease-fire efforts faltered.

In response, Israel has halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza's power plant that were meant to ease the electricity crisis. Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, fought a war in 2014. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened "very painful blows", saying Israel was very close to waging a "different kind of activity".

One Israeli soldier has been killed by Palestinian sniper fire over the same period.

Since March, 155 Palestinians have been killed during the protests. Repeated attempts to reconcile Hamas and the West Bank-based administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have failed, adding to the desperation fuelling the demonstrations.

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