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Rocket attack from Gaza sparks Israeli airstrike

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-31

Israeli aircraft struck several targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday, killing a Hamas militant and wounding eight people. A rocket had been fired from Gaza earlier on Friday, hitting an Israeli city.

AFP - Hamas vowed revenge on Saturday after Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed a senior militant and wounded eight other people.

The overnight Israeli raids came after a rocket fired from the strip hit a southern Israeli city.

One Hamas militant was killed in an airstrike on a caravan near the Magazhi refugee camp in the centre of the Palestinian enclave, a Hamas official said. The Israeli military said the site was "a weapons-manufacturing warehouse."

In a statement on Saturday, the military wing of Hamas identified the man as Issa al-Batran, 40, and said he was a senior field commander.

"These new Zionist crimes will not pass without answer," the statement said.

Israel has tried to kill Batran in the past. His wife and five sons were killed in an attack on his house during Israel's three-week offensive on the territory in December 2008.

Aircraft also fired at least four missiles at buildings used by Hamas security forces in Gaza City, wounding eight people, several of them seriously, said Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza emergency services.

The site targeted used to house the offices of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas before his Western-backed Fatah party was ousted from Gaza by the Islamist Hamas in 2007.

Fearing further strikes, Hamas ordered the evacuation of all its security offices, a security source told AFP.

Warplanes also hit smuggling tunnels on the border with Egypt without causing casualties, witnesses said.

Also on Saturday, two Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire while searching for scrap material near the Gaza border fence, Hassanein said.

The army said the two were in a no-go zone and that troops fired at their legs after they failed to heed warning shots.

The airstrikes came after a rocket fired by Gaza militants on Friday slammed into the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, causing no casualties but some damage, and prompting sharp criticism from the United Nations.

The 122 mm Katyusha-type rocket landed next to a high-rise apartment building, damaging parked cars and shattering windows, the military said.

The Israeli military routinely responds after rocket attacks from Gaza, and the army said in a statement that it "holds Hamas solely responsible for terror emanating from the Gaza Strip."

The United Nations condemned Friday's attack, saying that "indiscriminate rocket fire against civilians is completely unacceptable and constitutes a terrorist attack."

The port city was frequently targeted by rocket fire from Hamas-run Gaza before the Gaza war.

Just over 100 rockets and mortar rounds have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel this year, compared with a daily barrage before the war, but most have not had the range to reach Ashkelon, 10 kilometres (six miles) north of Gaza.

Date created : 2010-07-31

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