Israel strikes Gaza after rockets fired from enclave

A Military Police car blocks a road leading to Zikim beach after it was closed to visitors due to escalating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel

Sirens wailed in southern Israel warning of incoming projectiles from Gaza and Israeli media reported two people were lightly injured from shrapnel in the border town of Sderot.

At least three Palestinian were killed and eight others were wounded on Wednesday in Israeli air strikes on Gaza, which Israel said were in retaliation for rocket fires and an alleged attack from the Palestinian side that targeted its heavy equipment on the Gaza-Israeli border.

The exchange came amid continued attempts by Egypt to broker a broad cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas.

Israeli forces said in a statement about 150 rockets were fired from Gaza and at least 25 had been intercepted. Reports said it wasn't clear if one of those hurt was wounded by a rocket or by debris from the rocket defense system.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said on Wednesday he was "deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel, and particularly by today's mutiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel".

An Israeli policeman surveys the scene where a rocket exploded in the southern city of Sderot, Israel August 8, 2018.

Israel's military later confirmed it struck Gaza, saying it hit 12 Hamas sites in all, including "an offensive maritime terror tunnel. several terror sites in military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip. rocket manufacturing facilities and a central logistical military complex".

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"Hamas hit the "enemy" with a large number of rockets", it said. No casualties were reported.

The violence came after two fighters from the military wing of Hamas, which governs Gaza, were killed by Israeli fire on Tuesday.

Following the strike, Hamas' Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades announced that two of its members were killed in the strike, naming them as Ahmad Margan and Abdel Hafex Al-Silawi, both 23-years-old and from the Jabalia refugee camp.

In a statement, the IDF said: "Terrorists shot at civilian vehicles that were being used in the effort to construct the barrier around the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip". Israel temporarily suspended fuel shipments to Gaza in July for similar reasons.

Palestinian health officials said on Wednesday that two of the victims were a pregnant woman and her 18-month old child as the Israeli army claimed it bombed Hamas military targets in the enclave in response to rocket fires.

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Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force at the protests, but the military said they only opened fire in self-defence or on people trying to infiltrate its territory.

One Israeli soldier has been shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

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