GAZA (Reuters) - The leader of Hamas in Gaza said on Friday the Islamist group was “not calling for war” with Israel, and that Egypt and other parties were working behind the scenes to defuse the worst flare-up in violence since a 2014 conflict.
Israel’s military has traded blows with Hamas over the past few days. The Palestinians have fired mortars at Israeli troops and Israeli aircraft and artillery have struck inside Gaza.
“We are not calling for war but we will not allow incursions at all,” said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s deputy chief, speaking at a mosque before Friday prayers.
“The resistance will not allow the establishment of a so-called buffer zone inside the borders of the Gaza Strip.”
Haniyeh said mediators from Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and the United Nations had been working to restore calm along Gaza’s border and that in the meantime Israeli forces had pulled back.
Israel’s military said it would not comment on its maneuvers. But a spokeswoman said no Palestinian mortars had been fired since this morning, after two days of more frequent barrages.
Israeli forces say they have been conducting operations against tunnels under the border of Gaza used by militants, and on Thursday discovered a tunnel built by Hamas.
Gaza hospital officials said a 54-year-old woman had been killed and a man wounded by fragments of an Israeli tank shell fired during the violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met senior ministers on Friday to discuss the situation.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed by rockets and attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; editing by Ari Rabinovitch and Andrew Roche