Terror groups in the Gaza Strip continued their heavy rocket bombardment of southern Israel throughout Friday, as the Israel Defense Forces kept up its attacks on targets in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
The BBC reported Friday that Egypt had proposed to Israel and Hamas a 12-hour ceasefire.
An Israeli source said he had no knowledge of the proposal but that the country had no intention for now of ending what is has dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls.
The IDF said that it had identified 190 rocket launches between 7pm Thursday and 7am Friday, dozens of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Sirens warning of an attack from Gaza also sounded Friday afternoon during the funeral for 5-year-old Ido Avigal, who was killed two days ago in a rocket strike on his home in Sderot.
The sirens sent mourners scrambling to the ground and crouching against walls for cover during the funeral in Kiryat Gat.
The IDF said it had struck a Hamas cyber facility on Friday afternoon, after it attacked a Hamas rocket cell in the northern Gaza Strip as they were preparing to fire into the center of the country and a squadron firing of anti-tank missiles in the Shuja'iyya neighborhood of Gaza City.
Earlier Friday, Iron Dome intercepted a bomb-laden drone over the skies of the Eshkol Regional Council. That was followed by another warning of hostile aircraft entering Israeli territory, and residents of kibbutzim close to the Gaza border were ordered to remain in their homes.
The IDF fired artillery and mounted extensive air strikes in the early hours of Friday against a network of Palestinian militant tunnels under Gaza that it dubbed "the Metro," amid persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities.
An IDF spokesman said that while ground forces had taken part in the 40-minute, pre-dawn offensive, none had crossed into the Gaza Strip, as hostilities entered their fifth day with no sign of abating. Multiple media outlets reported that troops had gone into Gaza and later clarified that this had not been the case.
Health officials in northern Gaza said a woman and her three children were killed during the Israeli operation and that their bodies were recovered from the rubble of their home.
Rocket barrages on southern Israel swiftly followed the IDF strikes, which the spokesman said included artillery and tank fire from inside Israeli territory.
The most serious fighting between Israel and Gaza terror groups since 2014 began on Monday after the enclave's ruling Hamas group fired rockets at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
At least 119 have been killed in Gaza, including 31 children, and 830 others wounded in the current hostilities, Palestinian medical officials said.
The death toll in Israel stood at eight: a soldier patrolling the Gaza border, six Israeli civilians - including a an elderly woman who fell on the way to a shelter on Friday and two children - and an Indian caregiver worker, Israeli authorities said.
In northern and eastern parts of Gaza, the sound of artillery fire and explosions echoed early on Friday. Witnesses said many families living near the border left their homes, some seeking shelter at United Nations-run schools.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said 160 aircraft as well as artillery and armored units, "not inside the Gaza Strip," had taken part in what he called the largest operation against a specific target since the fighting began.
"What we were targeting is an elaborate system of tunnels that spans underneath Gaza, mostly in the north but not limited to, and is a network that the operatives of Hamas use in order to move, in order to hide, for cover," he said in a briefing to foreign reporters.
"We refer to [it] as the Metro," he said, adding that a final assessment on the outcome of the operation was pending.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the campaign "will take more time" and rejected moves for a truce from Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza. Israeli officials said Hamas must be dealt a strong deterring blow before any ceasefire.
U.S. President Joe Biden called on Thursday for a de-escalation of the violence, saying he wanted to see a significant reduction in rocket attacks.
The hostilities have fueled tensions between Israeli Jews and Arabs who live together them in some communities.
Violence continued overnight in mixed communities of Arabs and Jews. Over the past several days, synagogues were attacked and torched and fighting broke out on the streets of some towns, prompting President Reuven Rivlin to express concerns of a looming civil war.
On Thursday, the IDF said it was building up forces on the Gaza border, raising speculation about a possible ground invasion, a move that would recall similar incursions during Gaza wars of 2014 and 2009.
But an invasion looked unlikely, given Israel's reluctance to risk a sharp increase in military casualties on Hamas turf.
The UN Security Council will publicly discuss the worsening violence between Israel and Palestinian militants on Sunday, diplomats said after the United States had objected to a meeting on Friday.
Truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had yet to deliver a sign of progress.
The IDF has put the number of militants killed in Israeli attacks at between 80 and 90. It said that so far, some 1,800 rockets have been fired at Israel, of which 430 fell short in the Gaza Strip or malfunctioned.
On the political front, Netanyahu's chances to remain in power after an inconclusive March 23 election appeared to improve significantly after his main rival, centrist Yair Lapid, suffered a major setback in efforts to form a government when Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Yamina reversed course on joining a broad coalition to end the prime minister's 12-year rule.
First published: 10:12 , 05.14.21