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story.lead_photo.caption Israeli security stands at the site where a missile from Gaza Strip hit in the town of Sderot, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Sirens wailed in southern Israel warning of incoming projectiles from Gaza and Israeli media reported two people were lightly injured from shrapnel in the border town of Sderot. (AP photo/Yehuda Peretz)

JERUSALEM -- Talk of a long-term cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas rulers of Gaza was abruptly interrupted by cross-border fire late Wednesday and early today as the Israeli military traded blows with Palestinian militants, the latest in a series of recent sharp clashes.

Hours into the exchange, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that a pregnant woman, Inas Khammash, and her 18-month-old daughter had been killed in an airstrike that hit their home in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. An Israeli military spokesman could not immediately comment on the report of civilian casualties.

Palestinian militant groups fired about 70 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel by midnight, according to the Israeli military. Most landed in open ground, but at least four slammed into the Israeli border town of Sderot, causing several injuries and property damage.

At least 11 rockets headed for developed areas were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system.

The Israeli air force carried out waves of attacks against targets across Gaza, including what the military described as a factory producing tunnel parts and a tunnel shaft. The military also distributed video of a missile strike on a vehicle that it said was carrying a squad that had just launched a rocket at Israeli territory.

The Gaza Health Ministry said a 30-year-old man was killed in that strike. At least nine Palestinians, including Khammash's husband, were reported to have been injured in the series of airstrikes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel met with his defense minister and military chiefs for an emergency session after midnight.

There were reports of hurried efforts by Egyptian mediators to restore the shaky cease-fire.

Earlier Wednesday, shots were fired from Gaza at civilians constructing a new barrier along the border. An engineering vehicle was hit, but the driver escaped injury. Israeli tank fire hit a Hamas post that had already been evacuated. Hours later, Hamas responded with rocket fire.

Also Wednesday, a U.N. aid agency called on Israel to allow emergency fuel into the Gaza Strip to avert the shutdown of hospitals and sanitation facilities.

Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, in a news release called Israel's restriction of fuel imports "a dangerous practice, with grave consequences on the rights of people in Gaza."

Israel halted the supply of petroleum and natural gas to Gaza last week in response to incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza into southern Israel. Israel temporarily suspended fuel shipments to Gaza in July for similar reasons.

The almost daily airborne arson attacks have been part of months of weekly border protests led by Hamas aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after it took control of the territory in 2007.

The blockade that has caused widespread economic hardship and left the coastal territory with crippling fuel shortages and just a few hours of electricity a day.

Over the past four months, more than 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 in the protests near the fence and others in Israeli air strikes and other incidents elsewhere in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a rights group. Twenty-four of the slain protesters were minors, the ministry has said. One Israeli soldier has killed by a Gaza sniper.

Israel says it is defending its border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the fence and carry out attacks.

Information for this article was contributed by Ilan Ben Zion and Fares Akram of The Associated Press; and by Isabel Kershner of The New York Times.

A Section on 08/09/2018

Print Headline: Hamas says Israel's fire kills mom, girl

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