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Islamic Jihad claims rocket attacks

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-23

The militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for firing rockets on the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashdod on Wednesday, spurring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for a new offensive against the Gaza Strip.

REUTERS - Palestinian rockets struck two cities deep in Israel on Wednesday, wounding a resident and prompting a deputy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call for a new offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad, a smaller Gaza faction and occasional Hamas ally, claimed responsibility for the attacks on Beersheba and Ashdod that followed a surge of shelling between Israel and Hamas that killed four Palestinian civilians and five militants on Tuesday.
 
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said the situation recalled the run-up to Israel's 2008-2009 Gaza war, which killed around 1,400 Palestinians. Hamas had mostly held fire from the enclave since.
 
"We may have to consider a return to that operation," Shalom told Israel Radio. "I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation."
 
With dissident movements rocking the Arab world, U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has broached reconciliation with Islamist Hamas, which bested his Fatah faction in a 2006 ballot and seized control of Gaza in a civil war a year later.
 
Shalom said Hamas might have opened a new front with Israel "to stop any possibility of dialogue among the Palestinians or to come to the intra-Palestinian negotiation in a far stronger position".
 
Hamas is shunned by the West for rejecting peace with Israel. Under Hamas rule, Gaza has been kept under grinding embargoes by Israel and neighbouring Egypt. Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which has a limited mandate in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has seen security and economic prospects improve.
 
Grad rockets
 
Islamic Jihad said it fired Grad rockets, assembly-line weapons more sophisticated than some shorter-range projectiles Palestinian militants have used in the past, at Beersheba and Ashdod, 35 km (20 miles) and 40 km (25 miles) from Gaza respectively.
 
An Israeli military spokeswoman said a Beersheba man suffered moderate shrapnel wounds and that the second rocket landed outside Ashdod's centre, causing no damage.
 
Authorities ordered schools closed in Beersheba and advised residents to be ready to take shelter at the sound of sirens.
 
In a statement, Islamic Jihad said it sought to avenge "the Zionist massacres against our fighters and people" and would continue to fight "until the full liberation of our lands" -- a reference to Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza.
 
Hamas has described its attacks, which included the firing of more than two dozen mortar shells and rockets at the weekend, as retaliation for Israeli strikes. Hamas has at times proposed a long-term truce with Israel.
 
After Tuesday's deaths in Gaza, Netanyahu voiced regret for the civilian casualties, which he said resulted from errant Israeli shelling. He said Israel sought no further flare-up but would continue to respond to Palestinian attacks.

 

Date created : 2011-03-23

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