Fear grips Palestinians and Israelis, under fire for fourth day

Israeli fighter jets have pounded targets in the Gaza Strip and more rockets have been launched into Israel by Palestinians as the deadly confrontations continue for a fourth straight day.

There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side on Friday as foreign mediators pressed ahead with efforts to reach a ceasefire.Al Jazeera’s Willem Marx, reporting from the Israeli town of Ashkelon, said sirens were sounding throughout the area, warning residents of incoming fire.

“Possibly about two dozen rockets were fired from Gaza, among the more than 800 launched this week,” Marx said. “The Israeli military has confirmed to us it is moving residents away from these areas to get them to places less likely to be hit by this heavy rocket fire.”

Fighter jets were heard flying over the region, indicating Israeli raids were continuing. The past few days of fighting have killed 31 Palestinians in Gaza and a 70-year-old man in central Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met army and intelligence officials early on Friday. “That will indicate how the Israeli military will proceed over the coming hours,” Marx said.A rocket slammed into an open field in the south Jerusalem settlement of Bat Ayin, said Josh Hasten, a spokesperson for the area. Videos showed Israelis jumping out of their cars and crouching beneath highway rails as sirens sounded.

An umbrella group of Gaza-based Palestinian factions known as the “joint operations room” said it launched rockets “in response to the assassinations and continued aggression toward the Palestinian people”.

Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed, reporting from Gaza, said people were out to attend Friday prayers but the Israeli strikes worried worshippers.

“There is constant fear here,” she said. “We expect everyone will stay home after Friday prayers, but residences have been targeted over the past few days. The amount of fear here remains very high.”

‘We were shocked’
During a lull in the fighting, Palestinians surveyed the wreckage caused by the Israeli attacks.“Our situation is the same as that of any Palestinian citizen whose house is targeted and whose dream, built over the years, is destroyed,” he said.

He and his family would have been killed in the explosion if they had not run outside when they heard shouting, he said.

“We were shocked that our house was targeted,” Bashir said as he pulled his children’s dolls and blankets from a bomb crater.

The cross-border exchanges this week have pitted Israel against Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed group in Gaza after the territory’s Hamas rulers.

Since Tuesday, Israel has said its strikes have killed five senior Islamic Jihad figures. Islamic Jihad has retaliated with hundreds of rockets fired towards densely populated parts of Israel.

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