Code: 759059 A

A pregnant Palestinian mother and her one-year-old baby have been killed in a wave of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, shattering a month-long lull in violence in the besieged enclave.

The bombardment on Saturday came after Hamas, which rules Gaza, and the Islamic Jihad movement fired more than 200 rockets towards cities and villages in southern Israel.

At least three Palestinians, including the mother, infant and a 22-year-old male, Emad Naseer, were killed in the air raids, the health ministry in Gaza said, while 13 others were wounded.

Shrapnel from the Gaza rockets meanwhile wounded two Israelis; one of them was an 80-year-old woman.

The escalation began on Friday when a sniper from Islamic Jihad fired at Israeli troops across the border wounding two of them, according to the Israeli military. A retaliatory Israeli air strike then killed two fighters from Hamas.

Two other Palestinians protesting near the frontier were also killed by Israeli forces.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad responded with rocket fire on Saturday.

In a statement, the two groups promised a "broader and more painful" response if Israel "pursues its aggression". Israeli forces retaliated with air raids and tank fire against more than 30 targets belonging to both groups.

The European Union called for an immediate de-escalation late on Saturday, and threw its backing behind efforts by Egypt and the United Nations to calm the situation.

"The rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel must stop immediately. A de-escalation of this dangerous situation is urgently needed to ensure that civilians' lives are protected," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for the EU.

"Israelis and Palestinians both have the right to live in peace, security and dignity," she added in her statement.

The outbreak of fighting, which prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene security chiefs, comes days before Muslims begin Ramadan and Israelis celebrate Independence Day.

Israel is also due to host the 2019 Eurovision song contest finals in less than two weeks in Tel Aviv.

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Palestinians Gaza Strip Israeli raids
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