Israel argues the measures are necessary to isolate Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by most Western countries.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
Movement in and out of the territory — which was severely restricted by Israel and Egypt before the pandemic — has tightened in response to the coronavirus threat.
Authorities in Gaza have said that more than 2,700 Palestinians are in home-isolation, mostly people who had returned from Egypt.
A civilian group called the Al-Shajaiyah initiative hit the streets of Gaza City on Sunday after the cases were confirmed, working to clean the street with sanitising spray.
“We in the Gaza Strip have been under siege for 14 years and the possibilities (to protect ourselves) are very limited,” said Ahmad Al Wadya, a doctor helping to coordinate the effort.
– ‘Disaster of gigantic proportions’ –
The head of the WHO’s Palestinian office, Gerald Rockenschaub, told AFP this week that Israeli restrictions and political tensions have caused Gaza’s health facilities to deteriorate over the past decade.
Gaza has only 60 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for its two million people and not all are operational due to staff shortages, he said.
In response to the pandemic but before the Gaza cases were confirmed, Israel had announced an increased supply of medical equipment to Gaza, according to the branch of the Israeli military responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian Territories, COGAT.
Supplies already delivered included 600 testing kits and 1,000 protective suits, COGAT said last week.
Hamas authorities are also working to build up to 1,000 new isolation rooms near the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
Matthias Schmale, the Gaza director of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, told AFP this week that it would be “an illusion to think you can manage (an epidemic) in a closed-off space like this”.
“Everything I am hearing is if the outbreak reaches the magnitude where you need more than 60 ICU beds to treat, it will become increasingly difficult and could well turn into a disaster of gigantic proportions,” he said.
Palestinians suffering from cancer and other serious diseases are currently allowed to leave Gaza through Israel for treatment inside the Jewish state or in the occupied West Bank.
It is not yet clear if Israel, which has imposed tight restrictions on its own population in response to the pandemic, will allow seriously ill coronavirus patients to be transferred from the Strip.
The Israeli army said Tuesday that a strike in Gaza that killed nine members of the same family had been due to a faulty assessment of the risk to civilians.
The November 14 airstrike targeted the home of Rasmi Abu Malhous, described by Israel as a commander in Islamic Jihad, the militant Palestinian movement against which Israel had launched a three-day campaign.
He and eight members of his family were killed by the attack, including five children.
A statement from the army said that intelligence collected ahead of the attack had indicated that the residence “was designated as an Islamic Jihad terror organisation military compound”.
The army had “estimated” that “civilians would not be harmed as a result of an attack” on the site, which was not believed to be accessible to members of the public.
An army inquiry later found “that even though military activity was conducted in the compound, it was not a closed compound, and in reality, civilians were present there,” it said.
The army said it would learn from its “mistakes” to reduce “the recurrence of similar irregular events.”
It stressed it had made “considerable efforts… to reduce the damage to non-combatants”.
The military report also blamed Islamic Jihad for exploiting and endangering non-combatants “by placing its military assets in the heart of the civilian population and by deliberately acting from within densely populated civilian areas.”
The three-day flareup began when Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza on November 12.
The Islamist group, which is closely allied with Gaza’s rulers Hamas, responded by firing more than 450 rockets at Israel.
During the confrontation, Israeli forces attacked dozens of targets in the enclave.
Palestinian officials said 35 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded. There were no Israeli fatalities.
In its Tuesday report, the Israeli army said its November operation had been a success, dealing a blow to Islamic Jihad and serving to increase the security of Israeli civilians and help prevent “a wider military campaign.”
An Israeli military court has sentenced a soldier to one month in jail over the killing of a Palestinian teenager after he opened fire without authorisation, the army said Wednesday.
The unnamed soldier was convicted Monday for “acting without authorisation in a manner endangering to life and well-being”, it said in a statement.
Othman Rami Halles, 15, was shot dead during protests on the Israel-Gaza border on July 13, 2018, the Palestinian health ministry said at the time.
The army said a probe had found that “the soldier fired at a Palestinian rioter who was climbing on the security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip”.
The soldier, identified in Israeli media as a sniper, had opened fire “not in accordance with the rules of engagement and not in accordance with the instructions he had received”, it said.
After a plea bargain, the court sentenced the soldier to 30 days in prison with military labour and a suspended term of another 60 days, and he was demoted.
The investigation had found no evidence of a “causal link between the soldier’s fire” and the teenager’s death, the army said.
At least 311 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since protests were launched along the border of the Israeli-blockaded enclave in March 2018, the majority during the demonstrations and clashes.
Eight Israelis have been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.
Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired at Israel from the blockaded enclave.
The ministry said another Palestinian was hospitalised in the shooting that came after the Israeli army said an attack helicopter and tank had fired at “armed suspects” along the barrier that separates Israel from Gaza.
“We just identified a number of armed suspects from Gaza approaching the security fence with Israel. We fired towards them,” the army said a statement posted on its Twitter account.
The latest violence came after Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired three rockets at southern Israel late Saturday, the Israeli army said, in the second such attack in 24 hours.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The army said two of the projectiles had been intercepted by its Iron Dome aerial defence system but it did not specify what happened to the third rocket.
Air raid sirens had sounded in the southern town of Sderot and its surroundings.
On Friday Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at Sderot, in what the army said was the first such attack since July 12.
In response, Israeli warplanes struck at least three targets in the Gaza Strip early on Saturday but caused no casualties, a Palestinian security source said.
The strikes hit a Hamas observation post in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, an unidentified target near Gaza City and open ground near Deir El Balah in the central part of the territory, the source said.
An Israeli army statement mentioned only two strikes, against “underground targets belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the northern and central Gaza Strip”.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.
And since March 2018, regular protests and clashes have erupted along the border of the blockaded coastal enclave.
At least 305 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza or the border area since then, the majority during demonstrations and clashes.
Seven Israelis have also been killed in Gaza-related violence over the same period.
Palestinian leaders in Gaza announced a ceasefire with Israel on Monday to end a deadly two-day escalation in violence that threatened to widen into a fourth war between them since 2008.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes in the hours after it was due to take effect, an AFP correspondent in Gaza said.
Israel also lifted restrictions on civilian movements in communities around the Gaza border on Monday morning.
Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4:30 am (0130 GMT), an official from the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas and another from its allied group Islamic Jihad said on condition of anonymity.
An Egyptian official also confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity.
It came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
The escalation began Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza, drawing waves of Israeli retaliatory strikes, and continued throughout Sunday.
At least 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed.
Four Israelis civilians were also killed.
The flare-up came as Hamas sought further steps from Israel toward easing its blockade under a previous ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.
Israel at the same time faced pressure to restore calm and put an end to the rockets hitting communities in the country’s south.
It commemorates the country’s Memorial and Independence Days later this week and is due to host the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv from May 14-18, which is expected to draw thousands to Israel.
On the Gazan side, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began Monday.
Palestinian officials in Gaza accused Israel of not taking steps to ease its blockade as promised under previous ceasefire deals.
The Islamic Jihad official said the new truce agreement was again based on Israel easing its blockade.
Among the steps, he said, were the relaxing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not address the ceasefire in a Monday statement, but said: “We’ve forcefully struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
“The battle is not over and demands patience and discretion,” he said.
Israeli opposition politicians — and at least one from Netanyahu’s own party — criticised the agreement.
Former military chief Benny Gantz, who challenged Netanyahu in Israel’s April 9 general elections, called it “capitulation to blackmail”.
Brink Of War
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008 and the escalation brought them to the brink of another.
The Palestinian dead included a commander for Hamas’s armed wing who Israel said it targeted due to his role in transferring money from Iran to militant groups in Gaza.
It was a rare admission of a targeted killing by Israel’s army.
Israel said its strikes were in response to Hamas and Islamic Jihad firing some 690 rockets or mortars since Saturday, with air defences intercepting more than 240 of them.
In addition to those killed and injured, the rockets repeatedly set off air raid alarms in southern Israel and sent residents running to shelters while also damaging houses.
The army said its tanks and planes hit some 350 militant targets in Gaza in response.
Several buildings in Gaza City were destroyed, including one Israel said included Hamas military intelligence and security offices.
Turkey said its state news agency Anadolu had an office in the building and strongly denounced the strike.
Gaza’s health ministry said the dead from the Israeli strikes included a 14-month-old baby and a pregnant woman, 37. It first identified the woman as the baby’s mother, but the family later clarified she was the aunt.
Israel strongly disputed the claim, with army spokesman Jonathan Conricus saying that based on intelligence the deaths of the woman and baby were not due to an Israeli strike.
“Their unfortunate death was not a result of (Israeli) weaponry but a Hamas rocket that was fired and exploded not where it was supposed to,” he said.
The Gazan ministry reported late Sunday that another four-month-old baby was among those killed in Israeli strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel’s army had no comment.
On Sunday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their armed wings had targeted an Israeli army vehicle with a Kornet anti-tank missile.
Conricus said a Kornet missile had hit a vehicle and killed an Israeli civilian.
Calls for Calm
Egyptian and UN officials held talks throughout to reach a truce, as they have done repeatedly in the past, and there were international calls for calm.
US President Donald Trump meanwhile assured Israel on Sunday that it had Washington’s full support against “these terrorist acts”.
The escalation followed a gradual uptick in violence that threatened a previous ceasefire, including Friday clashes along the Gaza border that were the most violent in weeks.
A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt and the United Nations, had led to relative calm around Israel’s election last month.
That truce saw Israel allow Qatar to provide millions of dollars in aid to Gaza, paying salaries and financing fuel purchases to ease severe electricity shortages.
An Israeli strike killed two Palestinian militants in the central Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run health ministry and Islamic Jihad said, raising to seven the number of Palestinians killed in the enclave on Sunday.
A ministry spokesman told AFP Mohammed abu Armanah, 30, and Mahmoud abu Armanah, 27, were killed in an Israeli strike in central Gaza, without giving further details.
Islamic Jihad confirmed the men were members of its armed wing.
Three people were killed in Israel on Sunday as Hamas and other groups fired barrages of rockets from the strip in a major escalation, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes.
Thousands of Gazans began gathering to mark the first anniversary of mass protests along the Israeli border on Saturday, testing a fragile truce only 10 days ahead of an Israeli general election.
Egypt has sought to mediate between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas to rein in violence and avoid the sort of deadly response from the Israeli army that has accompanied past protests.
But warnings to stay far back from the heavily fortified fence that marks the border were already not being heeded by some.
“We will move towards the borders even if we die,” said Yusef Ziyada, 21, his face painted in the colours of the Palestinian flag.
“We are not leaving. We are returning to our land.”
Dozens of Palestinians were seen approaching the border fence east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip at around midday (0900 GMT) before retreating as Israeli troops fired tear gas.
The protesters threw stones at the Israeli soldiers and burnt tyres.
Further south, an Egyptian security delegation visited a protest site east of Gaza City.
The city’s mosques were using loudspeakers to call on people to attend, but rainy weather could affect turnout.
“There are about 5,500 rioters gathered at several locations along the fence,” the Israeli army said at around 1 pm (1000 GMT).
“Some of them are throwing stones and setting tyres on fire,” it said, adding soldiers were responding with “riot dispersal means.”
Before dawn Saturday, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during an overnight protest ahead of the main demonstration, the enclave’s health ministry said.
Israel’s army had not commented on the death, but late Friday said explosive devices were thrown at the fence “throughout the evening.”
A tank “struck a Hamas military post in the northern Gaza Strip” in response, it said.
Protesters were marking the first anniversary of often violent weekly demonstrations in which around 200 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed.
The anniversary comes only days after another severe flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire restored calm.
The timing is especially sensitive for Israel, which holds a keenly contested general election on April 9 in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a stiff challenge from centrist former military chief Benny Gantz.
He is widely seen as wanting to avoid a major escalation, but has at the same time faced political pressure over accusations of being soft on Hamas.
The protests peaked on May 14, when Israeli forces shot dead at least 62 Palestinians in clashes on the same day Washington moved its embassy to Israel to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
The demonstrators are calling for Palestinians to be allowed to return to land their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation.
Israel says any such mass return would spell the end of a Jewish state and that its actions have been necessary to defend the border.
It accuses Hamas of orchestrating violence, but its soldiers’ use of live fire has come under heavy criticism.
Last month, a UN probe said Israeli soldiers had intentionally fired on civilians in what could constitute war crimes.
Two million Palestinians live in impoverished Gaza, crammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
Analysts highlight desperate living conditions and lack of freedom of movement as driving forces behind the protests.
Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas, has blockaded the enclave for more than a decade, and Egypt often closes Gaza’s only other gateway to the outside world.
The UN says more than 90 percent of the water is unsafe for drinking and residents receive less than 12 hours of mains electricity a day.
Many protesters have remained far back from the fence and have demonstrated peacefully, but others have approached in numbers and clashed with soldiers.
Small groups have attached incendiary devices to balloons to float them over the border in an attempt to set fire to nearby Israeli homes and farmland.
The Israeli army has increased its presence along the border in recent days deploying several thousand troops, including dozens of snipers.
On Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza struck a house north of the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv, wounding seven people.
In response, Israel struck dozens of Hamas targets, drawing further rocket fire before calm was restored.
Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said Hamas was trying to use the protests to get concessions from Israel.
“Hamas seems to think that the run-up to Israeli elections, and Netanyahu’s desire to maintain calm in Gaza, has given it increased leverage,” he said.
“But as we have seen with Israel’s military build-up along the Gaza border, this could be a risky strategy.”
“In response to multiple explosive devices that were hurled and exploded during Gaza riots near Israel’s border fence this evening, an IDF aircraft targeted two Hamas observation posts in the southern Gaza Strip,” a statement from the military read.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza.
The Gaza health ministry, however, announced the death of 24-year-old Habib al-Masri, who was wounded in clashes with the Israeli army. It gave no details on when he was wounded.
On Friday, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in separate border clashes.
And on Saturday, the Israeli army launched two separate airstrikes against groups of Palestinians in Gaza who had allegedly flown balloons rigged with explosives into Israel.
The Gaza health ministry said two Palestinians had been wounded.
At least 258 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since weekly border protests began nearly a year ago.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya is calling for a mass turnout for border protests scheduled for the first anniversary of the demonstrations, on March 30.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks from Gaza, controlled by the Islamist group since 2007.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Tuesday to discuss the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip but there was no agreement on how to address the crisis, diplomats said.
Kuwait, which represents Arab countries at the council, and Bolivia requested the meeting following the worst flare-up in Gaza since the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.
Addressing reporters after the 50-minute meeting, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the council was “paralyzed” and had “failed to shoulder its responsibility” to take action to end the violence.
“There is one country that is not allowing discussion at the council,” Mansour told reporters, in a reference to the United States, which has taken a pro-Israeli stance under President Donald Trump.
There was no statement from the council on the crisis. Such statements are agreed by consensus by all 15 council members.
Kuwait’s Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the majority of council members were of the view that the top UN body “should do something” and some suggested a visit to the region, but no decision was taken.
Palestinian militant groups including Hamas, which rules Gaza, issued a joint statement earlier announcing an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel.
The groups said they would abide by the truce as long as Israel did the same, but there was no immediate comment from the Israeli side.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon earlier said “we will not accept a call for both sides to exercise restraint” and laid the blame for the violence squarely on the Palestinians.
Seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza as Israeli strikes targeted militants and flattened buildings in the worst escalation of violence since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
The latest round of violence began on Sunday with a botched Israeli special force operating inside the Gaza Strip that turned deadly and prompted Hamas to vow revenge.
Palestinian militants responded with rocket and mortar fire. An anti-tank missile hit a bus that Hamas says was being used by Israeli soldiers. A soldier was severely wounded in the attack.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and protests and clashes along the Gaza border since March 30 have repeatedly raised fears of a fourth.