Hours after violence flared between Israel and Hamas for the second time in a week, prompting renewed fears that Gaza could slide quickly into an all-out war, reports that a ceasefire has been restored surfaced.
The escalation began in the late afternoon, when an Israeli soldier died after being hit by gunfire during protests along the fence that separates Israel and Gaza, reports the CNN quoting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
It was the first Israeli soldier killed on the fence since the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, the IDF said.
The IDF's initial response was tank and artillery fire.
Four people were killed in that salvo, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Hamas, the militant group that runs the coastal enclave, said in a Whatsapp message to journalists that three of the four men killed were members of its armed Qassam Brigades.
The IDF said that, in addition to the shooting incident, there were also multiples explosives thrown toward Israeli soldiers during the unrest at the fence.
The Israeli air force then launched a series of what it called wide-scale attacks on dozens of Hamas military targets across the coastal enclave.
The IDF said it had succeeded in eliminating a Hamas battalion's command and control capabilities, a drone warehouse, aerial defense systems and a factory used for underground infrastructure manufacturing, among other sites hit.
Later Friday, the army said at least three rockets were fired toward Israel from Gaza; two of the launches were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
There were no reports of any casualties from the rocket fire.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN's chief Middle East envoy, called on the two sides to step back from further escalation.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Mladenov in a phone conversation that if Hamas continued to fire rockets toward Israel, the response will be "much stronger" than they think, according to a statement Liberman's office released.
BDST: 1518 HRS, JULY 21, 2018