Israel launches deadly Gaza Strip air raid

At least seven people are dead, and some 50 wounded after Israeli warplanes struck a building in the Gaza Strip Friday.


Seven Palestinians were killed and at least 50 wounded on Friday night when Israeli warplanes launched a raid on a building in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, medics and witnesses said.

The Israeli aircraft targeted the home of top Islamic Jihad militant Ayman al-Fayed in the Bureij Palestinian refugee camp south of Gaza City, killing him and two of his children, a boy and a girl, they said.

A woman was among the other four dead, the medics said, adding that the fate of Fayed's wife and three other children was not known.

A military spokeswoman denied Israeli forces had attacked the house.

Around 50 people, including around 20 children, were wounded when the building was hit by a missile, the Palestinian medics added. Most were family members.

Apart from Fayed the dead and wounded were all civilians, the medics said.

The Fayed house was completely destroyed in the attack and at least 10 other houses were damaged by the blast, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said.

Emergency services were searching through the rubble to see if any people had been buried under the debris.

Medical sources identified Fayed, 42, as a top commander from the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The group's spokesman Abu Ahmad confirmed his death.

A neighbour, who declined to be identified, told AFP that Fayed's family was inside the house when it was hit and many were killed or wounded.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital south of Gaza City after the attack and chanted calls for revenge, an AFP correspondent reported.

Its corridors and those of the territory's main hospital, Al-Shifa in Gaza City, were filled with the wounded.

The impoverished Gaza Strip is home to eight refugee camps, and Bureij is both the smallest and the most populated.

A military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv denied that Israeli forces were responsible for the blast.

"We did not undertake any operations on Friday against the Gaza Strip," she told AFP. "We are not involved in what happened at Bureij tonight."

Israel has kept Gaza under effective lockdown since last June following the territory's takeover by the Islamist movement Hamas, and on January 17 it tightened the blockade.

The Israelis say the measure is in response to rockets being fired at it by Palestinian militants inside the impoverished coastal territory.

On Monday, army chief Lieutenant General Gaby Ashkenazi said the army was "prepared and ready to broaden its actions in conformity with the decisions taken."

A day later, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the armed forces would do whatever is necessary to stop militant rocket attacks.

"Israel will not refrain from taking any course of action in order to bring a stop to the fire against Sderot," Barak said, referring to the southern town that has borne the brunt of rocket fire.

"There are reasons why we are not using all our force right now, but it will happen at the right moment," he told journalists travelling with him to Turkey, without elaborating.

At least 179 people, mostly Gaza militants, have been killed since Israel and the Palestinians relaunched formal peace talks in November, according to an AFP count.

The latest deaths brought to 6,140 the total number of people killed since the eruption of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, most of them Palestinians, according to an AFP tally.

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