Israel, Hamas agree truce to end Gaza flare-up -Palestinian officials

Screenshot of available smartphone applications for updates on siren alerts August 9 2018

Israeli aircraft bombed a multi-story building in Gaza City on August 9, local residents said, a few hours after Palestinian militants fired a long-range rocket at Israel's largest southern city.

The strike hit a building that Palestinians say housed a cultural centre and other offices in the middle of the city, an AFP correspondent said.

The military also said that the train service between Ashkelon and the Gaza border town of Sderot would resume.

Air raid sirens signaling incoming rocket fire wailed across southern Israel throughout Thursday, with warnings going off in the southern city of Beersheba for the first time since the 2014 war.

Several media outlets were reporting a ceasefire by midnight, but an Israeli official denied this and told Haaretz that Hamas had been seeking a ceasefire agreement since Thursday morning, but Israel continued to attack targets in the strip.

Israel just launched multiple airstrikes destroying al-Meshal Cultural center in Gaza - a public area that hosts cultural festivals and art events.

The United Nations' Mideast envoy is expressing his concern about the latest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has struck more than 150 Hamas targets since late Wednesday after the Islamist group and its allies fired some 180 rockets and mortars at the Jewish state.

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Eighteen Palestinians were wounded in the Israeli strike on the alleged Hamas headquarters, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

According to the Jerusalem Post, more than 200 rockets and mortars were launched since August 8, leaving 28 Israelis injured. Local health officials said 18 bystanders were wounded outside of the building by the blast. The ministry said the militant and the civilians were killed in separate incidents.

"This is a blatant crime and Israel is responsible for it", he said.

It said the Palestinian "resistance" had fired a large number of rockets at "enemy positions in the Gaza envelope".

In nearby Israeli communities, residents were sent scrambling to bomb shelters. One woman was reported to be in serious condition, while nine others were taken to the hospital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet late into the night on Thursday.

Neither Greenblatt, the foreign ministry, nor the army made any mention of the killing of Inas Khimash and her daughter Bayan.

"We only slept an hour", said Naomi Zolberg, 34, a resident of the Israeli city of Sderot who said four projectiles hit very close to her home on Wednesday evening as she was inside with two of her children.

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As Israeli airstrikes persist and the living situation gravely worsens, Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of a full-blown humanitarian crisis due to Israel's 10-year siege.

Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee, a smaller faction in Gaza, said on his Facebook page: "Upon Egyptian and global efforts, a ceasefire between Palestinian resistance began conditional on the commitment of the occupation". A vehicle parked nearby was smashed.

Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus insisted Israel only targeted Hamas military targets in Gaza.

The flare-up came after officials on both sides had talked about potential progress in an effort by the United Nations and Egypt to broker a truce to end months of violence and alleviate deepening humanitarian and economic hardship in the Gaza Strip.

The military said 30 of the some 180 rockets and mortars fired at Israel were intercepted by air defence systems.

"If the current escalation, however, is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people", he said in a statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the worldwide community to "immediately and urgently intervene".

Israel has killed more than 150 people since March when Palestinians began to stage protests on the border to demand an end to the blockade and the return of the Palestinians to the occupied territories. This comes less than 24 hours after Israeli airstrikes killed three Palestinians on Wednesday night. One Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

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