Israel pounded nearly 30 targets in Gaza overnight after militants fired scores of rockets into the south, prompting Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to demand on Thursday that it halt its “escalation.”

The rocket barrage, which was the heaviest since an eight-day conflict between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers in November 2012, sent thousands of Israelis fleeing for cover across the south on Wednesday afternoon.

So far, there have been no reports of casualties on either side of the border.

And experts said Israel was not interested in a major confrontation with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

The latest tit-for-tat violence was sparked by an incident on Tuesday when militants of the hardline Islamic Jihad group fired a mortar round at troops. - AFP