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Are Israel and Hamas headed for another war?

Violence escalates in Gaza, as tensions heighten between Israel and Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Israeli media, called today’s violence a “criminal attack on innocent civilians in both Israel and Jordan [that] was instigated by terror groups who want to sabotage the peace process.”

While Hamas said the rocket and mortars fired into Israel on Friday did not come from them, Israel has previously said that it would hold Hamas, which effectively rules Gaza, responsible for any weapons deployed within the area’s borders.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group that has said it is committed to the destruction of Israel, took control of Gaza in a 2007 coup, which led Israel to enact a blockade against the coastal Palestinian territory.

Last January, Israel launched a major military operation inside Gaza after scores of rockets hit nearby Israeli towns in the months before. The three-week battle killed hundreds of Palestinians and largely stemmed the flow of rocket fire from Gaza.

This latest round of violence is largely seen as a distraction for Israel, which is focusing its attention on the threat coming from Iran, which Israel believes is seeking nuclear arms. Still, with violence at its highest point in a year and a half, it’s difficult to predict just how far the latest hostilities might escalate.

And Gazans aren’t optimistic.

“It seems like the violence is building to something worse,” said Ahmed Kassem, who had come to help friends dig out from this morning’s explosion in Deir el Belah.

Editor's note: In the fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great forged a path from Greece through the modern Middle East to Persia. It was a path of conquest that empires would follow through the ages. Traces of each can be seen today in the culture, monuments, continuing military presence and people along the route, which ended for Alexander in Babylon, in modern-day Iraq. In this project, GlobalPost correspondent Theodore May sets out to see how Alexander’s influence lives on. He will be blogging about his travels at Backpacking to Babylon.