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Middle east

Fresh Israeli air strikes as militant rocket fire continues

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-03-12

At least four Palestinians were killed in fresh Israeli air strikes on Monday as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to stand firm against militants firing a steady barrage of rockets into southern Israel.

AFP - Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza for a fourth day on Monday, killing four more Palestinians, as a teenager died in a mystery blast, raising the death toll so far to 23.

The latest strike killed a man in his 60s and his daughter in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, medics said.

Several hours earlier, a teenager was killed nearby, in what the Palestinians claimed was a drone strike.

But the Israeli military said it had not been operating in the area at the time.

As militants kept up a steady stream of rocket fire on towns and cities in southern Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the army could expand its operations if rocket fire continued.

"The Israeli army is prepared to expand its activities, and will continue its activities as long as necessary," he told MPs from his rightwing Likud party, hailing the Jewish state's "crushing offensive abilities."

During the day, Israeli warplanes carried out at least nine strikes across the territory, targeting a weapons storage facility and rocket-launching sites, and killing two militants and two civilians.

Both militants, who belonged to Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigade, were killed in strikes around the southern city of Khan Yunis.

And shortly afterwards, a blast killed a 15-year-old boy and wounded six others in what emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya said was an Israeli drone strike.

But a military spokesman denied the air force had carried out any attacks in the area at the time, and an AFP correspondent at the scene confirmed there was no sign of an air strike.

The latest attack in Jabaliya killed two civilians, Mohammed Mustafa al-Hasumi, 65, and his 35-year-old daughter Faiza.

In a statement, the Israeli military said the strike targeted "a terrorist squad" who had just launched a rocket towards Israel.

While it acknowledged the strike may have caused "the apparent injury of uninvolved persons," it said the incident was "a blatant example of how terror organisations use human shields to carry out terror attacks."

Monday's bloodshed raised to 23 the number of Palestinians killed in a weekend of tit-for-tat violence that began on Friday afternoon. Another 83 people have been wounded, medics said.

Of that number, 17 were militants -- 10 from Islamic Jihad, and five from the Popular Resistance Commitees -- and six were civilians, among them two minors.

Meanwhile in southern Israel, a rocket hit a residential area of Ashdod, lightly injuring an elderly woman, medics and police said.

"A number of rockets were fired in the direction of Sderot and Ashdod. One of them hit a building in Ashdod, apparently a shop, and caused damage," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Since midnight (2200 GMT), Gaza militants had fired 64 rockets and mortar rounds, the army said, of which 41 hit Israeli territory, and 23 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile system.

Monday's firing raised to more than 200 the number of rockets fired at the Jewish state over the past 72 hours, although the casualties have been minimal with just four people hurt over the weekend.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the "rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel."

"We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these attacks. And we call on both sides, all sides, to make every effort to restore calm," Clinton told the UN Security Council.

Most of the rocket fire has been claimed by the Quds Brigades, which lost 12 of its militants over the past four days.

On Monday, the Brigades took a sideswipe at Gaza's Hamas rulers, who are seeking Egypt's help to restore calm, and whose armed wing has not been firing rockets at Israel.

"We call on those panting after any calm, whatever its conditions, to direct their messages at the enemy and not the resistance, for there is no calm after today, except based on the conditions of the resistance," a statement said.

But there was no sign a truce was on the horizon.

"No-one now is speaking about a ceasefire," Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu told AFP.

"It was the Israeli side who broke the ceasefire and we need to see them end the escalation before we talk about (a new) ceasefire," he told AFP.

The violence kicked off on Friday after Israel killed Zuhair al-Qaisi, head of the Popular Resistance Committees, prompting militant groups to begin lobbing rockets over the border.

The army said Qaisi had planned a deadly attack in August 2011 when militants sneaked across the border from the Sinai Peninsula and killed eight Israelis, and accused him of planning a repeat attack "in the coming days."
 

Date created : 2012-03-12

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