Israel says it downed drone along coastline

The drone came from Gaza and was shot down near the southern city of Ashdod, the military said

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Israel's military on Monday said it downed a drone fired from Gaza near its southern coastline, Israeli military officials were quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

This is the first time Israel encountered such a weapon since its campaign against the Gaza Strip militants began last week.

The military said the drone came from Gaza and was shot down near the southern city of Ashdod, the military said. It did not say what the drone was carrying and there was no immediate confirmation from Gaza on the use of unmanned aircraft.

Infographic: Gaza rocket attacks

Infographic: Gaza rocket attacks
Infographic: Gaza rocket attacks

The news comes as Israel appeared to hold off on a threatened escalation of its week-old Gaza Strip barrage on Monday despite having balked at Western calls for a ceasefire with an equally defiant Hamas.

Operation Protective Edge was launched last Tuesday in what Israel said was a response to heavy rocket fire out of Gaza.

The military says it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes, while Palestinian gunmen have launched more than 800 rockets at Israel.

The death toll of the Israeli offensive on Gaza has killed more than 170 people, Al Arabiya News Channel reported Monday.

Two Palestinian citizens, a man and a woman, died in the early hours of Monday due to injuries caused by Israeli attacks the day before, medics were quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

On Sunday, thousands of Palestinian residents of the northern Gaza Strip fled their homes in Beit Lahiya and sought safety in U.N. shelters, heeding warnings from the Israeli military about impending plans to bomb the area.

Since then, a single air strike landed on farmland outside the town, causing no casualties, Palestinians said, according to Reuters, It was largely quiet in the early hours of Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered on Sunday to help secure a Gaza truce.

Kerry’s bid to broker a wider peace deal collapsed in April when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called off negotiations with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over his surprise power-share with Hamas.

His ceasefire call was echoed by France and by Germany, which will send its foreign minister to the region on Monday.

A U.S. official quoted by Reuters said that Kerry, in a phone conversation with Netanyahu, "described his engagement with leaders in the region to help to stop the rocket fire so calm can be restored and civilian casualties prevented".

That referred to an Egyptian-mediated accord that doused the last big Gaza flare-up. Cairo is now again seeking calm. Hamas, said it also received U.S. overtures through Abbas and Qatar.

(with Reuters and Associated Press)

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