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Fresh violence threatens Gaza truce efforts

Israeli air strikes killed three Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday, prompting the armed wing of Hamas to threaten to escalate fighting with Israel. The Israeli army said the latest raids were in response to rocket attacks from the coastal territory.


AFP - Three Palestinians were killed and an Israeli wounded in air raids and rocket fire Saturday, medics said, as the armed wing of Hamas threatened to call off an Egypt-brokered truce.

"The air raids by the Zionist enemy are new crimes. We will not stay silent in the face of the crimes," said Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades of the Islamist movement Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip.

A fresh Israeli air raid shortly after its announcement killed a Palestinian and wounded 10 people in a Gaza City residential district, Palestinian medics said.

Adham Abu Selmiya, spokesman for the Hamas-run emergency services, named the dead man as Ussama Ali, 42, who had been on his way to a wedding when he was killed by a missile apparently aimed at a passing motorcyclist.

The rider was injured and taken to the city's Shifa hospital. The other casualties were either passers-by or residents of nearby apartments, Abu Selmiya said.

The Israeli military said its air force carried out an attack in the northern part of the strip, where Gaza City is located, but did not give the precise location.

The air force "targeted a terrorist squad ... during final preparations to fire a rocket at Israel," it said in a statement. "A hit was confirmed."

Palestinian officials said the attack raised to three the number of people killed in seven Israeli strikes on Saturday and the number since Monday's outbreak of the latest round of violence to 15, with dozens wounded.

At least 150 rockets and mortar shells have since hit Israel, wounding five people, among them four border police officers.

Earlier in the day, Palestinian medics said, an Israeli drone killed a Palestinian man, Khaled al-Burai, 25, east of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza.

And a medic said Ali al-Shawaf, aged six, was killed and his father and another man wounded in a strike east of Khan Yunis, but the Israeli military denied it was responsible.

"The explosion that caused the death of the Palestinian child today was because of ordnance belonging to one of the terror groups," Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, the army's foreign press spokeswoman, said on Twitter.

Witnesses said Israeli aircraft carried out at least four other strikes elsewhere in Gaza on Saturday.

One targeted militants travelling in a car in the Zeitoun neighbourhood east of Gaza City after they had fired rockets into Israel, witnesses said.

Raids also struck the Beit Lahiya area in the north and the Nusseirat and Al-Bureij refugee camps in central Gaza, without causing casualties, they said.

Raids on Friday night targeted two camps of the Brigades in the centre and north of the territory, and a former Hamas security post in Gaza City. They wounded about 20 people, the health ministry said.

Palestinian militants struck back, firing at least 39 rockets into southern Israel, most of them hitting the town of Sderot, Israeli officials told AFP, adding that one man was wounded in the town when shrapnel sprayed a building.

The Israeli army said the latest raids were in response to rocket fire earlier in the week, for which it held Hamas responsible.

In its statement, the Qassam Brigades said "nobody will be able to blame our fighters when we respond.

"If our response was not sufficient to get the message through to the enemy, we stand ready to destroy his arrogance, stop his crimes and respond to his aggression," it warned in a statement on Saturday.

An army spokeswoman said that five of 39 rockets fired at Israel on Saturday were intercepted by its Iron Dome air defence system, while 16 fell into the sea or landed inside the Gaza Strip.

The violence came despite an Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas announced late on Wednesday by the Brigades after a wave of deadly exchanges in and around the territory.

The latest round of Israeli attacks and Palestinian retaliation began with air strikes Monday morning, just hours after gunmen from Sinai carried out an ambush along Israel's southern border with Egypt, killing an Israeli civilian.

Israel has said its sudden spike in Gaza operations was "in no way related" to the Sinai border incident, with the military saying the air force was targeting militants poised to attack the Jewish state.


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