Friday, 19 August 2011

Israli air raids continue with attack on refugee camp in central Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli warplanes struck An-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on Friday morning in an ongoing assault which has killed at least seven Palestinians in the coastal enclave since Thursday.

One Palestinian was lightly injured as Israeli fighter jets bombed a generator near the camp, causing a power outage across the area, said Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya.

Missiles also hit a training camp of the armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, witnesses said.

The Israeli military said aircraft "targeted two weapons manufacturing sites in the central Gaza Strip and a terror activity site in both the northern and southern Gaza Strip."

"This is a response to the terror attacks executed against Israel in the last 24 hours," an army statement said.

The raid came hours after Israel launched airstrikes on the Az-Zaitoun neighborhood south of Gaza City causing damage but no injuries, medics said.

Just after midnight Friday, Israeli warplanes launched a series of raids targeting Gaza City, the northern towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, and Khan Younis in the south.

Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya said an airstrike on a home near the former intelligence services headquarters in Gaza City killed 13-year-old Mahmoud Abu Samra and injured 18 others.

Elsewhere, Apache helicopters fired at least two missiles toward a Palestinian military site in the town of Beit Lahiya and a missile near Khan Younis landed in an open area and caused no injuries or damage.

The overnight strikes followed a day of violence in which gunmen unleashed bloody mayhem on on a desert road near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

Six Israeli civilians, a soldier and a police officer were killed in several hours of attacks on a desert road some 20 kilometers north of Eilat.

Israel officials were quick to point the finger at Gaza, although the territory's Hamas rulers denied any connection to the attacks.

But the Israeli military said it held the Islamist group ultimately responsible for violence coming from the territory it controls.

"If Hamas wants an escalation, it will pay a high price," Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai told public radio on Friday, saying some form of ground operation in Gaza was not out of the question.

"All options are open, including a pin-point [ground] operation," he said.

Israeli warplanes responded to the attacks in Eilat immediately, attacking targets in southern Gaza which killed six people, including a two-year-old toddler and five militants from the Popular Resistance Committees -- the group it said was behind the violence.

The PRC vowed bitter revenge for the attack, which killed its leader and three other top cadres, and on Friday claimed responsibility for firing at least seven rockets and mortars into Israel.

Both sides were burying their dead on Friday, with funerals in Jerusalem for the soldier and the police officer, and a burial procession due to take place in southern Gaza for the five militants and the toddler.

As Israeli police went on high alert across Israel, the country's main newspapers painted a much clearer picture of how events unfolded on Thursday involving an estimated 15 to 20 gunmen, some wearing Egyptian army fatigues.

The first attack saw three gunmen open fire on a packed bus heading to Eilat, injuring seven people. Shortly afterwards, they opened fire on a civilian car in the same area, killing four people.

Then one of the militants detonated an explosives-packed belt he was wearing as an empty bus drove past, blowing himself up and killing the driver. Further gunfire was directed at another car, killing one man.

The soldier and the police officer were killed in two separate gunbattles with the attackers which lasted into the evening, the papers said.

Six of the attackers were killed by Israeli troops and special police forces, while the seventh blew himself up; others are believed to have fled across the Egyptian border.

In Egypt, state television said two "unidentified Egyptians" had been killed by Israeli gunfire on Thursday in an area near the site of the attacks; overnight security officials said three Egyptian policemen were also killed in the same area when an Israeli Apache fired a rocket at militants.

Egypt's state television on Thursday showed footage of rifles, grenades and army uniforms seized during an ongoing security operation in northern Sinai, while in a separate development, security officials said they had uncovered a workshop capable of producing suicide belts.


AFP contributed to this report. more