Israel-Gaza aerial firefight escalates despite truce bid | News | DW | 23.06.2012
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Israel-Gaza aerial firefight escalates despite truce bid

Israeli military jets have struck again inside the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rockets fired into southern Israel by Palestinian militants. The raids raise doubts about a three-day-old Egyptian-brokered truce bid.

Palestinian medics said two people - a motorcyclist and a six-year-old boy - were killed and 24 others were injured during overnight air raids that targeted the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza.

That brings to nine the number of Palestinians killed since Monday. Over the same period five Israelis have been wounded.

The Israeli army denied killing the boy, saying it had not attacked the area near the southeastern town of Khan Yunis, suggesting instead that the boy may have been a casualty of Palestinian munitions that had misfired.

A wounded Palestian security police officer is carried by helpers

Casualties on all sides

Thirty rockets and mortar shells fell on southern Israel on Saturday alone, the army added. One of them smashed through a factory roof, seriously wounding an Israeli man. Rockets had also hit a school in Sderot that was vacant over the weekend, it said.

The Israeli military said the latest shelling brings to 150 the number of projectiles fired since last Monday by Palestinian militants toward Israel's southern zone, where around one million people live. On Friday night, it said, five rockets had been intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system.

Retaliation threatened

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, threatened on Saturday to escalate the fighting.

In a statement it said the militia was ready to "respond to aggression in a strong way."

In turn, the Israeli army said it held Hamas responsible for "all terrorist activity coming from the Gaza Strip."

Witnesses in Gaza quoted by the news agency AFP said Israeli aircraft had carried out at least four other airstrikes on Saturday. One had targeted militants traveling in a car east of Gaza City after they had fired rockets toward Israel.

Truce in doubt

The violence came despite a tenuous Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas that was announced on Wednesday by Hamas' military wing. At the time, the Hamas militants had said other militant groups in the strip had promised to abide by the truce. Israel did not formally comment on the reported deal.

Watch video 03:25

Five years of Hamas rule

Israel said its latest raids on Gaza were "in no way related" to an incident on Monday on Israel's Sinai border with Egypt, where gunmen carried out an ambush, killing an Israeli citizen. Two of the gunmen were killed.

Five years have passed since Hamas seized Gaza in a military struggle with its secular rival Fatah, the Western-backed group once headed by the late Yasser Arafat. Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006.

ipj/ncy (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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