Israel said yesterday its aircraft had struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip overnight in response to rockets from the Palestinian enclave, including rare fire toward its economic capital Tel Aviv.
The escalation followed weeks of growing tensions and came at an especially sensitive time ahead of Israel's April 9 elections.
As the polls approach, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is widely believed to want to avoid a fourth war in the Gaza Strip since 2008 -- but the exchange of fire again showed the risks.
Quiet returned to Gaza and Israel yesterday morning.
UN and Egyptian officials were in contact with both sides "to prevent the situation from spinning out of control", a source with knowledge of the discussions said.
Organisers of weekly protests along the Gaza border fence, which have been accompanied by violence, announced they would be cancelled -- the first such move since they began nearly a year ago.
Four Palestinians were wounded in the Gaza strikes, the enclave's health ministry said, while no Israelis were reported injured.
Explosions could be heard throughout the night in Gaza and fireballs lit the sky.
In the bustling coastal city of Tel Aviv, sirens wailed late Thursday in scenes reminiscent of the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Rocket fire toward Israel's southern communities near the blockaded coastal territory is common, but Tel Aviv is rarely targeted.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday the Gaza militants attacking Israel were "armed and financed by their puppet masters in Tehran".
"We stand by our ally. Israel has the right to protect its citizens," tweeted Pompeo, who is due to travel soon to the Jewish state.