The Israeli army carried out scores of air strikes across the besieged Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday, in the highest-intensity offensive on the coastal Palestinian territory since the summer.
The Israeli army launched at least 87 air strikes, Israeli news outlet Ynet reported, saying it was in response to some 34 rockets fired from the enclave into southern Israel.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets, saying in a statement that they were in retaliation for the Israeli army’s killing of five Palestinian protesters on Friday.
“The resistance will not accept the equation imposed by the enemy on the basis of killing on their part and silence on our part,” the group said in a statement.
Following the exchanges, Islamic Jihad’s media office announced on Saturday morning that it had accepted an Egypt-mediated ceasefire with Israel.
Locals told Middle East Eye that one four-storey building in central Gaza City that was turned to rubble overnight had hosted charitable institutions and research centres.
Gaza’s Ministry of Health, meanwhile, said that air strikes had targeted the perimeter of the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, causing material damages to the building.
The ministry did not immediately report on Palestinian casualties or injuries from the air strikes. Israeli media said that six people had been minorly injured during the rocket attacks.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and at least 10,000 wounded by Israeli forces since the beginning of the Great March of Return on 30 March.
One Israeli soldier has been killed over the same period.
Thousands of Palestinian demonstrators have come out for 31 weeks to denounce the blockade of the Gaza Strip and call for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to the homes, from which they and their families were displaced during the establishment of the state of Israel.
The latest round of air strikes came as high-level Israeli officials have ramped up calls for a “strong blow” against Gaza in recent weeks, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman not excluding “a wide-scale confrontation”.
Israel maintains a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip which critics say amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave’s two million residents.
Egypt also upholds the siege, restricting movement in and out of Gaza on its border.