Palestinian sources said four people were killed Tuesday afternoon from Israeli artillery fire towards Gaza City's Tufah neighborhood. Two youths, aged 11 and 16, were among the victims, according to the sources.
Eyewitnesses said one of the IDF shells landed at the entrance of a home in Tufah, killing four people and injuring five others. Among those killed were three members of the same family.
An IDF official confirmed the report, saying the army regrets the death of civilians in the attack. He added that an investigation has been launched.
A Hamas official said in response: "Israel won't feel secure as long at the Palestinian people don't feel secure."
Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, said in response to the shelling "it seems that the Israeli occupation is seeking escalation. We fired mortars only at army positions; we did not hurt civilians like Israel has."
A spokesman for Hamas in north Gaza said the "resistance will respond to the Israeli escalation," while Islamic Jihad said its men were "committed to respond the massacre conducted by Israel."
Shortly before the IDF shelling in Gaza, four mortars were fired from the Hamas-ruled territory toward the northern Negev region. The shells exploded in open areas within the limits of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. There were no reports of injury or damage.
Later Tuesday, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza towards Ashkelon landed in an open area outside the Israeli city. There were no reports of injury or damage.
At around 6 pm another mortar shell that was fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open area near a kibbutz in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. No injuries were reported.
In recent days Israel has stepped up retaliatory strikes on Gaza following a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.
The IDF said that in response to the rocket and mortar fire its aircraft bombed a series of Palestinian terrorist targets in Gaza late Monday night, damaging smuggling tunnels and suspected weapons sites. Palestinian officials said 19 people were wounded. Palestinians bombarded Israel with dozens of mortars on Saturday in the largest barrage in years.
France voices concernFrance said on Tuesday it was concerned about an escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip this week and called on both sides to show restraint.
"We are worried by the mounting rocket fire on Israeli territory - which we have condemned - and by the Israeli army's operations in the Gaza Strip," French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages told a press briefing.
"We have called on both sides to show the greatest restraint in order to avoid any escalation in violence which recent history has show can have disastrous consequences," she said.
On Monday Abu Obeida said that his organization was once again ready to impose an unofficial ceasefire in the Gaza Strip "if Israel commits to stopping its aggression".
In an official statement he said, "We will also commit to this and toe the line with the national consensus." He warned, however, that Israel would "pay dearly" if it continued its airstrikes.
"The recent operations by the military wing are a response to Israel's ongoing crimes, which caused the deaths of two people and destruction of buildings in Gaza," he said.
Shmulik Hadad, Reuters, AP contributed to the report
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