Published July 15, 2018
A cease-fire that ended a 24-hour round of fighting between Israel and Hamas appeared to be in effect despite warnings from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza.
The Israeli military carried out its largest wave of airstrikes in Gaza since the 2014 war, hitting several Hamas military compounds and flattening a number of its training camps.
Two Palestinian teenagers were killed while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a residential home.
The fighting threatened to devolve into an all-out war before the Egypt-mediated crease-fire appeared to be accepted by both sides.
Israel’s military said several mortar shells were fired even after Hamas announced the cease-fire as sirens warning of incoming projectiles wailed in Israel overnight again. The military struck the mortar launcher early Sunday but the calm held, with neither side appearing eager to resume hostilities.
Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would not accept a cease-fire unless it included an end to all militant hostilities, including the use of incendiary kites and balloons that have devastated nearby Israel farmlands and nature reserves.
"The Israeli military has delivered its most punishing blow against Hamas since the 2014 war. I hope they got the message. If not, they will get it later on," he said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Israel said it unleashed Saturday's barrage in response to weeks of violence along Gaza's border — including a grenade attack Friday that wounded an officer — as well as sustained Hamas rocket attacks and a campaign of incendiary devices floating over the border.
Hamas responded with more than 200 projectiles toward Israel communities, evoking memories of the three wars the sides have waged over the past decade. Israel said its Iron Dome defense system shot down more than 20 projectiles.
Israel also destroyed several Hamas attack tunnels, as well as factories involved in the production of the incendiary kites and balloons, and a Hamas battalion headquarters in northern Gaza.
"We have no intention of tolerating rockets, kites, drones or anything," said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "I hope that Hamas will draw conclusions and if not, they will have to pay a heavy price."
Speaking to thousands attending the two teenagers' funeral, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed to continue Gaza protests and to take revenge for the teens. He also met with the U.N. Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, who urged both sides to maintain calm
"Yesterday we were on the brink of war, and it has taken the concerted efforts of everyone to make sure that we step back from confrontation," Mladenov said in Gaza. "Everybody needs to take a step back."
Israel has been warning Hamas that while it has no interest in exacerbating hostilities, it will not tolerate Gaza militants' continued efforts to breach the border and its campaign of incendiary attacks on Israeli border communities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.