Hundreds of rockets fired between Israel and Gaza

Rockets from Gaza have killed three people in an Israeli city while five Palestinian militants have died in surging cross-border fighting that includes a return by Israel to singling out enemy commanders for attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he ordered the military to continue "massive strikes" against Gaza's ruling Hamas group and Islamic Jihad, in the most serious border clashes since a spate of fighting in November.

Israel's military said more than 450 rockets, many intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system, have been fired at southern Israeli cities and villages since Friday, and it attacked about 220 targets belonging to Gaza militant groups.

A rocket that hit a house in Ashkelon killed a 58-year-old Israeli man, police said. He was the first such Israeli civilian fatality since the seven-week-long Gaza war in 2014. Separate strikes on the southern Israeli city killed two men, a local hospital official said.

In Gaza, at least four Palestinian gunmen were killed in Israeli strikes, health officials said.

In a separate strike it described as a targeted attack, Israel's military killed Hamed Ahmed Al-Khodary, a Hamas commander. The military said he was responsible for transferring funds from Iran to factions in Gaza.

The air strike on his car was the first such killing of a top mlitant since the war five years ago. Israel had suspended such attacks in a bid to lower tensions.

The sounds of sirens and explosions reverberated on both sides of the frontier, fraying nerves and keeping schools closed.

The latest round of violence began two days ago when an Islamic Jihad sniper fired at Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers, according to the Israeli military.

Islamic Jihad accused Israel of delaying implementation of previous understandings brokered by Egyptamd at ending violence and easing blockaded Gaza's economic hardship.

This time, Israeli strategic affairs analysts said, both Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants appeared to believe they had some leverage to press for concessions from Israel, where independence day celebrations begin on Wednesday.

In two weeks, Israel is also hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, the target of a Gaza rocket attack in March. That attack caused no damage.

On Sunday, sirens sounded in the city of Rehovot, 17km southeast of Tel Aviv.

In a statement announcing that Israel would press on with its attacks, Netanyahu, who doubles as defence minister, also ordered forces around the Gaza Strip to be "stepped up with tanks, artillery and infantry".

For residents in Gaza, the escalation comes a day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in the territory on Monday. It is traditionally a time for prayer, family feasts to break a daylight fast and shopping.

Since Friday, 13 Palestinians of whom five were civilians have been killed in Gaza. They included a 14-month-old baby and the baby's aunt in an air strike, the health ministry said.

Israel's military said its intelligence information showed they were killed byamsfired Palestinian rocket.

A UN envoy said it was working with Egypt to try to end the fighting.

Reuters