UPDATE – Gaza Flare-up: Two Women in Israel Killed as Militants Expand Rocket Fire; Direct Hit to Israeli Homes, School

Haaretz:

Israel says it assassinated chief of Islamic Jihad’s special rocket unit ■ Twenty-six Gazans, including nine children, reported killed ■ Israel kills three top Islamic Jihad militants, report says ■ Direct hit to Israeli houses, dozens wounded, as Ashkelon residents forced into shelter

Two women were killed in Israel and dozens were wounded as over 250 rockets were fired from Gaza. The Israeli army struck some 140 targets in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas joined the fighting Monday following a weekend of clashes in Jerusalem.

Palestinian media have reported 26 deaths in Israeli strikes, while Gaza’s Hamas and Islamic Jihad continued to rain rockets on Israeli communities along the border.

The Israeli military boosted its presence along the border. Authorities called on local residents to remain at home and near bomb shelters until further notice. Violent riots spread across Arab cities inside Israel, with one man shot dead.

The Hamas militant group on Monday launched a rare rocket strike on Jerusalem after hundreds of Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli police at an iconic mosque, as tensions in the holy city pushed the region closer to full-fledged war.

Israel responded with airstrikes across the Gaza Strip, where 20 people, including nine children, were killed in fighting. More than 700 Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, including nearly 500 who were treated at hospitals.

It was a long day of anger and deadly violence that laid bare Jerusalem’s deep divisions, even as Israel tried to celebrate its capture of the city’s eastern sector and its sensitive holy sites more than half a century ago. With dozens of rockets flying into Israel throughout the night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials and warned that the fighting could drag on, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

“The terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.”

By late Monday, the military had carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza, targeting what it said were Hamas military installations and operatives. It said a Hamas tunnel, rocket launchers and at least eight militants had been hit.

Gaza health officials gave no further breakdowns on the casualties. At least 13 of the 20 deaths in Gaza were attributed to the airstrikes. Seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket.

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