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Ceasefire holding after Israel's ‘most punishing blow’ against Gaza since 2014

AN EGYPT-BROKERED ceasefire appeared to hold today after Israel launched its worst air raids on the besieged Gaza Strip since 2014.

Two teenagers were killed by Israeli missile strikes on an unfinished five-storey building in Gaza City that overlooked a park. The raids reportedly targeted Hamas training camps and military compounds.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement responded with a barrage of rockets, with four Israelis injured in Sderot but none killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country had “delivered its most punishing blow against Hamas since the 2014 war,” an Israeli invasion of the strip that killed over 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, as well as 67 Israeli soldiers.

“I hope they got the message. If not, they will get it later on,” he said.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed revenge for the teenagers’ deaths at their funeral, but also met UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov and agreed the ceasefire. Despite a reported burst of mortar shells last night and an air raid today morning to take out the mortar launcher, the calm held.

Israel said it had launched its bombers in response to “weeks of violence along Gaza’s border” — though the lethal violence directed at unarmed protesters demonstrating for the right of return on successive Fridays since the end of March has come exclusively from Israel.

It also cited Hamas’s use of incendiary kites and balloons it says are damaging Israeli farmland and nature reserves.

Israeli soldiers have killed over 130 Palestinians since the Great Return March began.

A 15-year-old boy was shot dead while reportedly trying to climb the border fence on Friday and a 20-year-old shot the same day died from his wounds yesterday. 

Gaza police also announced an explosion today at a house in Gaza City that killed a father and son, aged 35 and 13. 

It appeared to be an accidental blast at a stockpile of explosives, with authorities pledging an investigation.

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