Israel-Gaza conflict: Ten civilians killed in Israeli air strike on Gaza as Palestinian militants fire salvo of rockets back

An Israeli air strike has killed eight children and two women from an extended family – the highest number of fatalities in a single hit since the Israel-Gaza conflict reignited earlier this week.

It came as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Saturday incoming rocket fire from Gaza had forced Israeli civilians to head to shelters to protect themselves for the fifth morning in a row, with the cities of Beersheba and Ashdod among those struck.

Israeli military forces said they carried out strikes on a Hamas military intelligence facility and a number of rocket launching sites in northern Gaza, an enclave controlled by the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.

The Israeli air raid that killed 10 hit a three storey house in a refugee camp in Gaza City, AP said, and a surviving widower told reporters that told his wife and five children, only one of whom is known to have survived, had gone there to celebrate the Eid al Fitr holiday with relatives.

Soon after, Hamas said it fired multiple rockets at southern Israel in response.

In other developments:

• Egypt led regional efforts to secure a ceasefire, having pushed for both sides to pause military activities from midnight on Friday, with Cairo leaning on Hamas, and the United States and others trying to reach an agreement with Israel

• But, according to an Egyptian source, Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers had accepted

• Amid the fighting, Palestinians marked the start of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, an annual day of Palestinian grief at Israel

• The UN Security Council is also set to meet on Sunday, after US diplomat Hady Amr arrived in the region on Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict

• The number killed rose overnight, with 136 people now having died in Gaza, including 34 children and 21 women, according to Palestinian health officials, and eight, including two children and a soldier, on the Israeli side

A total of 12 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombardment overnight, according to Palestinian medics said on Saturday.

Palestinians militants fired about 200 at Israeli cities, and Israel’s military said its aircraft struck apartments that belonged to Hamas militants as well as rocket launch sites.

The Nabka, which has fallen on Saturday, is one of the most sombre dates of protest in the Palestinian calendar. It marks the day after the creation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948, a move that led to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing or being expelled from the country.

This year, Nakba day is expected to be particularly tense, coming as Israelis and Palestinians engage in their worst clashes in years and with street unrest rising in mixed Jewish-Arab neighbourhoods across Israel stirring fears of a descent into civil war.

Anti-Israeli protests also erupted in the occupied West Bank on Friday, prompting Israeli forces to open fire, killing 11 people.

In addition, pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place at Israel’s borders with neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon, while three rockets were reportedly fired towards Israel from Syria.

The Israel-Palestinian hostilities are now in their sixth day.

Diplomatic efforts to stop the bloodshed are intensifying.

The US embassy in Jerusalem said Hady Amr’s aim after he arrived in Israel was “to reinforce the need to work towards a sustainable calm”.

As well as Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and the United Nations are also important players.

“The talks have taken a real and serious path on Friday,” a Palestinian official was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

“The mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations are stepping up their contacts with all sides in a bid to restore calm, but a deal hasn’t yet been reached.”

Diplomats have already held a number of closed-door sessions since the bombardments by both sides began on Monday.

The violence was sparked by tensions in Jerusalem over efforts by Jewish settlers to evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes in an east Jerusalem neighbourhood, and by clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a revered mosque in the Old City.

On Friday night, online video showed young Jewish nationalists firing pistols as they traded volleys of stones with Palestinians in the disputed Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip continued into early Saturday, followed by a salvo of Hamas rockets towards Israel.

The exchanges came after the heaviest barrage of Israeli tank and artillery fire, combined with airstrikes, overnight into Friday that pummelled the Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli military said that they had been going after a network of tunnels used by Hamas. But the onslaught wreaked destruction in some towns, killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing their homes.

Houda Ouda said she and her extended family ran frantically into their home in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, seeking safety as the earth shook in the darkness.

“We even did not dare to look from the window to know what is being hit,” she said.

The Israeli Defence Forces has said Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired more than 2,000 rockets from Gaza towards Israel since the start of the hostilities – an unprecedented volume of strikes.

More than 400 rockets are said to have fallen short into Gaza, while many more were blasted out of the sky by Israeli air defence systems. However, some did impact.

Across central and southern Israel, from small towns bordering Gaza to metropolitan Tel Aviv and southern Beersheba, Israelis have adjusted to sirens wailing, radio and TV broadcast interruptions and the beeps on their mobile phones of red alerts that send them rushing for cover.

For its part, the Israeli military said they have hit some 1,000 targets in Gaza, including rocket launch sites, individual commanders and the tunnel network.

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