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UN envoy ‘deeply alarmed’ by escalation in violence in Gaza Strip

Israel has carried out air strikes in retaliation over rockets fired by Hamas.

The United Nations’ Middle East envoy has expressed his concern about the latest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy who is involved in Egyptian efforts to broker a truce, said he was “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel” the day before.

Mr Mladenov’s statement came amid the latest surge in violence this week, in which Hamas fired over 150 rockets at Israel.

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Israel launched air strikes in retaliation for missile attacks (AP)

In turn, Israel carried out more than 140 air strikes in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Mladenov said that for months, he has warned the “humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants”.

He added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people”.

Meanwhile, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened his Security Cabinet to discuss the latest escalation of violence with Gaza militants.

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Israeli warplanes have hit dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip (AP)

Ahead of Thursday evening’s meeting, Netanyahu and his defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, convened with top military officials at the army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.

An Israeli official said Netanyahu had instructed the army to prepare for “every possibility”.

Palestinian chiefs said Israeli warplanes attacked a cultural centre in Gaza City.

The Palestinian health ministry said seven bystanders were wounded in Thursday evening’s airstrike in the Shati refugee camp.

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Palestinians inspect the damaged house hit by an Israeli airstrike that killed a 23-year-old pregnant mother, Enas Khamash and her 18 month-old daughter Bayan, in Deir el-Balah (AP)

Witnesses said the air force fired several warning missiles at the building before the actual strike – a tactic Israel uses to get people to evacuate buildings that are about to be targeted.

It is not immediately clear why Israel struck the building.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military says air raid sirens have sounded again in southern Israel, indicating incoming rocket fire.

Earlier on Thursday, a Palestinian rocket landed in an open area near the southern city of Beersheba.

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