Israeli airstrikes on Gaza kill pregnant woman and her toddler
Violence breaks out between Israeli security forces and Hamas militants, yet the two sides say a cease-fire will be signed later this month.
Conflict continued between Gaza fighters and the Israeli military on Wednesday as Hamas and Israel said a ceasefire between the two is in "advanced stages" to avoid a fourth war in a decade.
At least three Palestinian citizens, including a mother and her 18-month-old daughter, were killed by Israeli airstrikes on Wednesday, according to Reuters and Haaretz.
A senior member of Palestine's Islamic Resistance movement Hamas and a top Israeli lawmaker both say talks mediated by the United Nations and Egypt on a deal to ease escalating tensions are well underway.
However, a UN Middle East mission spokesperson, Nickolay Mladenov, told reporters: "I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel."
The UN negotiator added that his envoy and Egypt have engaged in an "unprecedented effort" over the past week to avoid serious conflict, but "the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people."
According to Reuters, Wednesday's violence broke out when Gaza militants fired guns at an Israeli vehicle, and Israeli troops responded with tank fire. Hamas fired about 70 rockets and Israel struck about a dozen militant targets.
Haaretz says the fight started when Gaza fired four rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired back. Up to nine Israelis and five Gazans were injured in the August 8 conflict.
While the Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, Israel has maintained a 10-year violent blockade on the region that has brought the strip to near economic and humanitarian collapse.
Around two million people live in Gaza, about 1.3 of whom are refugees who fled to the region or were driven out as the Israeli government occupied more and more of Palestine since 1948.
The most previous 2014 conflict between the Israeli army and Gaza fighters resulted in Israeli forces killing 2,251 Strip residents and injuring 11,231. Nearly 10,000 homes were destroyed.
The IDF reports that Wednesday's violence broke out due to a confusion by its soldiers who responded to shots that were, in fact, part of Gaza brigade ceremony, according to Haaretz. However, it's still unclear if the Israeli army had prior knowledge of the ceremony.
In return for calm in Gaza, Israeli officials said they would reopen a Gaza commercial border terminal and expand a fishing zone there. Their government also wants to recover the bodies of two killed soldiers and gain freedom for two of its civilians in Gaza.
Hamas is demanding that Israel free Palestinian security prisoners. This year alone Israel’s occupation forces detained 3,533 Palestinians, including 651 children and four journalists. Over 400 Palestinian are being held captive by Israel in indefinite detention without formal charges.
"We want to free our brave prisoners," Khalil Al-Hayya, deputy Hamas chief in Gaza told Al Jazeera. "Let it be a prisoner swap deal, (Palestinian) prisoners in return for Zionist soldiers."
A truce deal between the two factions will be revealed by the end of August, an anonymous Hamas source told Anadolu Agency.