JERUSALEM (AP) — Gaza militiamen launched on Sunday hundreds of rockets to the south of Israel, killing at least four Israelis and paralyzing the region in the bloodiest bouts there since a conflict in 2014. In turn, Israel bombed Gaza, leaving 23 Palestinians dead, including two pregnant women and two babies. They are the first deaths of Israelis caused by rockets since the aforementioned war. The fighting was unabated, as Palestinian militias threatened to launch even more rockets inside Israel, while Israeli reinforcements were located near the Gaza border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent the Most of the day by sitting with his security cabinet. At night, the cabinet ordered the army to «continue its attacks and await» subsequent orders. Israel also claimed to have killed Hamed al-Khoudary, a Hamas commander involved in the transfer of Iranian funds to that Islamist group. Israel and Hamas, which seeks to achieve the destruction of the Jewish state, have waged three wars since Hamas forcibly seized control of Gaza in 2007, which was in the hands of Western-backed Palestinian forces. They have also faced numerous minor bouts, two of them in March. Breaks in fighting used to last for months or even years, but these resurgences in hostilities have become increasingly frequent as Hamas, desperate for a debilitating Egyptian-Israeli blockade imposed 12 years ago, is trying to pressure Israel to suspend it. The blockade has devastated Gaza’s economy, and a year of Hamas-led protests on the Israeli border has yielded no tangible fruit. Hamas faced several days of popular demonstrations in March because of the difficult conditions facing the population. Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader, said in a statement on Sunday night that the extremist group «is not interested in a new war.» He said to be ready to «return to a state of calm» if Israel suspends its attacks «and immediately begins to implement understandings around a dignified life.»
In Washington, secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Israelis have «the right to defend themselves,» while expressing hopes that a recently implemented ceasefire can resume.
The Israeli armed forces said that the militia had fired more than 600 rockets, of which at least 30 were able to fall into urban areas. In addition to the dead, 66 people were injured, the Israeli police said. Palestinian medical authorities reported 23 deaths, including eight militiamen. At least four civilians, including two pregnant women and two babies, also died.