GAZA – There was a tense calm in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after an escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas overnight.
The fighting began after a rocket launched from Gaza early Monday hit an Israeli house and wounded seven people in a family, including children.
Palestinian militias launched 30 rockets and mortar shells towards the Israeli territory Monday night, according to the Israeli army.
The Israeli air force struck around 15 targets in northern Gaza in response.
Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, said earlier that Egypt had succeeded in brokering a ceasefire between the two sides, though there has been no confirmation of the ceasefire from Israel.
Israeli authorities limited civil activities in the Gaza area early Tuesday, ordered the closure of schools, told people not to go to work except if they have a nearby air defense shelter and limited public services.
It also banned meetings of more than 300 people in enclosed spaces and ordered that no agricultural work be done.
The measures affect the regional councils of Hof Ashkelon, Merhavim and Bnei Shimon and the cities of Netivot, Ofakim and Ashkelon
The military said in a statement that it holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip and has increased troops deployed in the area with infantry and armored brigades.
The situation led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut short an official visit to Washington, returning to Israel after a meeting with US President Donald Trump.
“There has been a criminal attack on the State of Israel and we will respond forcefully,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
He added: “In light of the security events, I have decided to cut short my visit to the US. In a few hours, I will meet with President Trump. I will return to Israel immediately afterward in order to manage our actions from close at hand.”
Israeli authorities have also announced the closure of the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, and the reduction of the fishing zone in Gaza until further notice.
The Kerem Shalom crossing serves as the only passage through which Gazans obtain their goods, according to Palestinian news agency Maan.
The escalation comes just two weeks ahead of Israel’s general elections.