The Latest: Israel says Palestinian rocket misfired in Gaza

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Workers inspect the rubble of the destroyed Abu Hussein building that was hit by an Israeli airstrike early morning, in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli military officials say a mysterious explosion that killed eight members of a Palestinian family on the first day of the current round of fighting in the Gaza Strip was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket, not an Israeli airstrike.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the rocket was launched in Gaza and fell inside Gaza and killed “almost an entire family.” Conricus added that “this wasn’t an Israeli attack.”

A senior military officer on Wednesday said the incident was investigated, and Israel did not strike the Beit Hanoun area where the family members were killed that night.

The officer said a total of 700 rockets — roughly one-fifth of the total launched by Palestinian militants — failed to reach Israel and landed inside Gaza. He provided no further estimates on how many Palestinians had been harmed by errant rocket fire. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines.

At least 219 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes, including 63 children and 36 women, with 1,530 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It does not break down how many militants are among the dead or whether people have died from misfired rockets.

Israel says Hamas is responsible for civilian deaths because the militant group uses residential areas for cover to fire rockets and carry out other military operations. Twelve people in Israel have also been killed, 10 by rocket fire aimed at Israeli towns and cities. Two people died in accidents while rushing for shelter.

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TEL AVIV, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is pursuing “forceful deterrence” against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and does not rule out a further escalation.

Meeting with foreign ambassadors on Wednesday, he said “you can either conquer them, and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them.”

“We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say, we don’t rule out anything.”

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against what it says are militant targets in Gaza since the fourth war between the two sides broke out earlier this month. Hamas and other militants have fired more than 3,700 rockets at Israel.

Netanyahu said Israel hopes to restore quiet “quickly” and is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli airstrikes have killed at least six people overnight across the Gaza Strip and destroyed the home of an extended family.

Despite growing international pressure for a cease-fire, the military said Wednesday it widened its strikes on militant targets in the Palestinian territory’s south to blunt continuing rocket fire from Hamas.

Residents surveyed the piles of bricks, concrete and other debris that had once been the home of 40 members of al-Astal family. They said everyone escaped after a warning missile hit the house.

The Israeli military says it struck militant targets around the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.

Gaza health officials say at least 219 Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes. Twelve people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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