GAZA, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Although a mounting escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Islamic Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip entered its third week on Thursday, the two sides expressed unwillingness for direct confrontations.
According to Israeli army's official figures, Gaza militants have already launched 80 rockets, mortars and projectiles into Israel since June 12, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in southern West Bank and later found dead after missing for 19 days.
The growing violence have also killed three Palestinian militants and injured more than 25 civilians, as Israeli war jets and helicopters were launching a series of intensive airstrikes on various targets all over the coastal enclave, including training facilities and lands used for launching rockets from Gaza into Israel.
On Thursday the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed to have fired 12 projectiles into southern Israel, while the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine also claimed responsibility for two long-range rockets into Israel.
The tension in Gaza has grown after Israel directly accused Hamas movement of being responsible for kidnapping and killing the three Israeli teenagers and vowed to oblige Hamas to pay a heavy price.
The ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip threatens the validity of an Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Hamas in 2012, which ended eight days of Israel's large-scale aerial operation in the coastal enclave. About 180 Palestinians and six Israelis died back then.
Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli army announced that it had sent more military reinforcement, including ground forces backed with tanks and armored vehicles, to the border area with the Gaza Strip in case of possible further escalation.
But an Israeli army spokesman told Xinhua that the reinforcement was not for escalation, but for defending the borders of Israel.
"All the measures that are taken on the ground by the Israeli army are limited and it is made in the frame of defense amid the ongoing rockets firing," the spokesman said.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza also told Xinhua that his movement is not interested in confrontation with Israel at this stage, though Hamas is ready to defend Gaza.
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