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Israeli warplanes strike targets in Gaza in heaviest fighting since May

Palestinian kids look at a destroyed car after it was hit in an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 19, 2021 (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa) 
Associated Press Reporter

Israeli warplanes struck targets in Gaza drawing machine-gun fire from Hamas in the heaviest cross-border fighting since an 11-day war in May.

In the occupied West Bank, officials said a Palestinian teen was killed in a clash with the Israeli military.

Palestinian authorities said the 15-year-old boy died after being shot in the head during clashes with soldiers in the city of Nablus.

The Israeli military said soldiers were carrying out an arrest raid in the Balata refugee camp when they came under fire from nearby rooftops.

The military said large stone blocks were thrown at the troops, and that soldiers opened fire at a person they said was about to drop a large object on them.

It was unclear whether the teenager, identified as Imad Hashash, was the same person.

The Israeli military said a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight hit a Hamas weapons manufacturing site, a tunnel and an underground rocket launch site.

The army said it struck an additional militant tunnel after Hamas fired machine guns across the border.

The violence came as cease-fire talks brokered by Egypt continued to deteriorate.

It also threatened to overshadow prime minister Naftali Bennett’s visit this week to the United States, his first diplomatic trip abroad since talking office in May.

Tensions have been rising in recent weeks between Israel and Hamas, with the Islamic militant group frustrated over the slow pace of ceasefire talks that it hopes will ease an Israeli blockade over the territory.

Over the weekend, a Palestinian militant shot an Israeli soldier in the head from point-blank range during a demonstration along the Israeli border.

The soldier reportedly remains in critical condition.

On Monday, Palestinian activists launched a series of incendiary balloons into Israel, igniting at least three blazes, according to Israel’s national fire service.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade over Gaza since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007, a year after winning Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The blockade restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, with Rafah serving as the primary exit point for Gazans to travel abroad when it is open.

Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two dead soldiers, as well as two Israeli civilians believed to be alive and being held by Hamas, as a condition for the cease-fire.

In the meantime, it has held up the deliveries of much-needed reconstruction materials.

On Monday, Egypt announced it was closing its border crossing with Gaza, the main exit point for Gazan travellers, citing difficulties in the ceasefire talks.

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