Tension between Israel and Hamas-led military groups in the Gaza Strip escalated on Saturday and may lead to a large-scale confrontation as the two sides have been exchanging fire since Friday night.
Security officials and local media reports said that Israeli war jets, drones and artilleries attacked overnight and during Saturday dozens of military facilities that belong to Hamas movement's armed wing al-Qassam Brigades all over the Gaza Strip.
In return, Gaza militant groups fired barrages of mortar shells into small Israeli communities close to the border with Gaza and also fired dozens of rockets into Israeli towns in the southern part.
The Israeli media reported that the Israeli defense system Iron Dome intercepted Gaza militants' rockets, with no injuries reported.
Meanwhile, an Israeli army spokesman said that Israeli air forces destroyed sensitive military facilities in the Gaza Strip.
The army said that underground tunnels, weapon caches, training camps and training equipments were destroyed in the intensive airstrikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad facilities all over the Gaza Strip.
Later on Saturday afternoon, Israeli war jets struck on a house in eastern Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip belonging to an Islamic Jihad militants, according to the Israeli army spokesman. The house was empty and no injuries were reported.
"The leadership of the enemy will be fully responsible for more aggression on the Gaza Strip and will pay a very heavy price for its stubbornness," said Hamas armed wing, al Qassam Brigades, in a short press statement.
Also on Saturday afternoon, four huge explosions wrecked western Gaza city. Palestinian security sources said that four air-to-ground Israeli missiles hit military headquarters for Hamas security forces in western Gaza city.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said in an official statement that 16 civilians were injured in the last airstrike on western Gaza city, including two children who were critically injured, adding that all were taken to hospital for urgent medical treatment.
The security sources also said that Israeli army artillery fired several bombs on the outskirts of southern Gaza Strip, targeting military facilities that belong to Hamas movement's armed wing. Severe damages were caused to nearby houses.
Meanwhile, Israeli Radio reported that more than 60 rockets and projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, adding that the rockets either were intercepted by the Iron Dome, or landed close to inhabited communities, no injuries reported.
Fawzi Barhoom, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a press statement that the mission of the militants in Gaza "is to protect and defend our people, which is a popular demand and a strategic option."
"The immediate dealing with the escalation of the enemy and the immediate response reflects the status of the militants' awareness in running and ruling the conflict, sending a clear message and guaranteeing the balance of fast deterrence and this is done to force the enemy to stop escalation," said Barhoum.
Dawood Shihab, the Islamic Jihad spokesman in Gaza, said in a press statement that "resistance will not hesitate to respond to any Israeli aggression against Gaza, bombing will be met by bombing and blood for blood and time that attacked us without a response is ending."
Tension between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has been flaring up over the past few weeks, where the Egyptian security intelligence, which always mediates a ceasefire between the two sides, repeatedly intervened to stop more escalation.
Earlier Saturday, Gaza Health Ministry said that 18-year-old Mohamed Shurab from the southern Gaza Strip city of Kahn Younis died of wounds early on Saturday morning.
On Friday, clashes broke out close to the border between hundreds of demonstrators and Israeli soldiers who were stationed at the border, during which a boy was killed and 200 others wounded.
Since the beginning of the rallies and protests, known as "the Great Marches of Return" on March 30, the Health Ministry said that the Israeli army killed 139 Palestinians and wounded more than 16,000 others.
Adnan Abu Amer, a political analyst from Gaza, wrote on his Facebook page "tug-of-war still exists between the Palestinian resistance and Israel until it reaches the cutting point or someone comes along and stops this dangerous game."
He added that "the continuation of the limited mutual escalation between the two sides may not last long because they stand on the brink of abyss and in every escalation approaching them."
Israel launched three large-scale military operations against the Gaza Strip. The first one was at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the second in November 2012, and the latest attack in the summer of 2014.
Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to launch a military offensive against the Gaza Strip to end Hamas rule, including the resumption of assassinations against Hamas leaders.