Defense official: Mortar fire on Israel stopped by extensive IDF strikes

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Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.'s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he was deeply concerned by "the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian militants from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel".

Later on Tuesday, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the massive mortar fire, which was meant to hit Israeli citizens while on their way to work and schools. The announcement comes amid reports of intense strikes in Israel and Gaza during what has been described as the worst hostilities since 2014.

In a follow up announcement, Israel's Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Yuval Steinitz, instructed the IEC not to put its employees in danger to fix the damage.

The Israeli military first responded to the largest attack on Israel from Gaza since the summer war of 2014 by using tank fire, which was aimed at Hamas positions near the Gaza border.

Egypt was said to have performed a significant role in stopping violence in Gaza from sliding into full-blown military conflagration during the last escalation on the border.

Israeli soldiers have killed more than 120 Palestinians since March 30, most at protests dramatizing the Palestinian demand to reclaim land lost in the fighting surrounding Israel's 1948 creation.

Several of the projectiles were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome rocket interceptor system, others landed in empty lots and farmland.

"It all depends on Hamas. The resistance factions will abide by it as long as the Occupation does the same", he said in a statement, using militant groups' term for Israel.

Israel said its strikes Wednesday hit drone storage facilities, military compounds, and rocket and munition workshops across the Gaza Strip.

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The Gaza Strip has also been under an inhumane Israeli siege since 2007.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his army would react "forcefully" to the dozens of mortars fired at Israel.

Off Gaza's coast on Tuesday, the Israeli navy intercepted a boat that organisers of the Palestinian border protests launched from the enclave in a challenge to an Israeli maritime blockade.

He told AFP that Gaza's rulers Hamas were also committed to it, though there was no immediate confirmation from Hamas or Israel.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman, Daoud Shehab, claimed that Egypt had brokered a cease-fire deal to go into effect at midnight. No Israelis have been killed.

Israel said it has acted against militants who used the mass gatherings as cover to attack troops and try to infiltrate Israeli territory.

Still, Kuwait, a non-permanent council member that represents Arab countries, is hoping to win a high number of votes in favour of its proposal to highlight Washington's isolation on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Kuwait has circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution on setting up an worldwide protection mission for Palestinians.