Senior Hamas leaders have threatened revenge against Israel after air raids in the Gaza Strip killed nine people, the single highest death toll since the 2012 cross-border war.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, on Monday accused Israel of a “grave escalation” in violence and threatened to retaliate, saying Israel would “pay the price”.
Among the dead from overnight attacks were seven fighters from the Al Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, killed in a tunnel in Rafah, in the south of Gaza.
Moshir Almasry, a Hamas politician, said that Israel had “crossed all red lines” and warned that the deaths would fuel resistance in the occupied territories.
“The blood of our people are very dear to us,” Almasry said in a post on Facebook. “Their blood was not shed in vain,” he added, saying their deaths were “fuel of the intifada and the resistance”.
In a statement, Israel’s army said it “has succeeded in stopping another attack against Israel by targeting terrorists who are implicated in launching rockets from central Gaza”. “The target was hit,” said the statement.
Fighters in Gaza have fired at least 25 rockets and mortar shells over the border since Sunday morning, after a night of 10 air strikes.
Meanwhile Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lost a close political partner on Monday after Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, said he was dissolving his pact with Netanyahu’s Likud.
During a news conference, Lieberman said the partnership “didn’t go well from the beginning”, but said he did not intend breaking the coalition.
Lieberman, the foreign minister, has in recent days criticised Netanyahu’s response in the Gaza Strip to rockets fired into Jerusalem, saying it does not go far enough.
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from the occupied West Bank, said the Likud-Beiteniu partnership agreement was different from the coalition government agreement, which would not be affected.
“It just weakens Netanyahu and gives Lieberman more political space to criticise him,” she said. “This move will not even require holding early elections. Lieberman can remain in the coalition government.”