Israel-Hamas fighting lessen along Gaza border, but tensions high

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GAZA/JERUSALEM:  Cross-border fighting between Israel and Hamas abated on Tuesday after a day of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes, but tensions remained high with Israeli forces massed along the Gaza frontier.

Rocket warning sirens continued to sound in Israeli towns near the border late on Monday after Palestinian officials said Egypt had mediated a truce. But by Tuesday morning, the border area had fallen quiet.

The flare-up began early on Monday when seven Israelis were wounded near Tel Aviv by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, some 120 km (70 miles) away.

Hours later Israel – which blamed Hamas, the dominant armed force in Gaza, for the rocket attack – carried out a wave of retaliatory strikes, wounding five Palestinians. The military said extra soldiers and tanks had been moved to the border.

A mosque, a driving school and an insurance company were attacked among targets bombed by Israeli planes overnight

Gaza militants fired barrages of rockets into Israel late into Monday night. Some were shot down by Israeli defenses and others landed in empty areas.

The escalation came just two weeks before an election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life after a decade in power, campaigning on a tough line against Palestinian militants.

Beset by corruption scandals, he faces a strong challenge from a centrist coalition led by a top general.

Netanyahu cut short a visit to the United States, after meeting President Donald Trump, and was due to land in Tel Aviv later in the day.

Boarding his flight back home, Netanyahu said Israel had delivered “a very, very forceful response”.

This article or news story originally appeared on REUTERS