The Israeli military said it launched dozens of strikes into Gaza that killed four Palestinians, including three Hamas fighters, which Hamas confirmed.
The fourth was a protester, local residents and medics said. At least 120 Gazans were wounded.
During the flare-up which lasted several hours, the Israeli military said its tanks had hit 68 Hamas targets and had “eliminated about 60 buildings and infrastructures and revoked significant military and command and control capabilities”, including a drone warehouse, aerial defence systems and observation posts.
“The event that happened today is something that we cannot tolerate and cannot allow to become a routine norm, that’s why we retaliated and that’s why we continue to target military targets belonging to Hamas,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, on Friday.
After dark on Friday, the Israeli military said that Gaza militants had launched three rockets into Israel, of which two were intercepted by its Iron Dome defence system.
Egyptian security officials and a diplomat from another unnamed state later held contacts with Hamas and Israel in an effort to restore calm and prevent further deterioration, a Palestinian official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held emergency discussions with cabinet colleagues and military chiefs about the escalation, which follows four months of Palestinian border protests.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds little sway over Hamas, has called for international intervention to prevent an escalation of the violence.
The months-long Gaza border protests known as The Great March of Return has seen Israeli security forces have killed more than 140 Palestinians and injured thousands.
Palestinians are protesting to demand the right to return to homes and villages they fled or were driven from during the conflict surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. But more recently some Gaza officials said the protests would end if Israel lifted an economic blockade of the Strip.
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