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Militants in Gaza exchange fire with Israel

By Agencies in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Palestinian Territories | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-14 07:42

Mahmoud Abbas calls for a halt to 'escalation'

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets at Israeli cities on Thursday on the second day of a cross-border flare-up that saw Israel bomb nearly 30 targets in Gaza the night before.

Sirens sounded in the southern Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod on Thursday. Police said the rockets had landed in open areas, causing no casualties.

The Israeli military carried out 29 airstrikes and fired tank shells at targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the Islamic Jihad group launched 60 rockets toward Israel in the heaviest such barrage in nearly two years.

No casualties were reported on either side of the frontier in Wednesday's incidents. Islamic Jihad said its rocket fire had been a response to Israel's killing of three of its members a day earlier. An Israeli drone strike killed three Palestinians on Tuesday in response to an alleged mortar attack on Israeli soldiers near the border, according to The New York Times.

On Monday, Israeli soldiers had killed Raed Zeiter, a Palestinian judge working in Jordan, as he attempted to pass through a border crossing point with Jordan, according to Russia Today. Initially, the Israeli military said the judge was a "terrorist", but on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said that Israel regretted the judge's death and sent condolences to the people and government of Jordan.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas demanded on Thursday that Israel halt its "escalation" of the conflict with Gaza.

The Palestinian leader, who is based in the West Bank, called on Israel to "put an end to its military escalation in the besieged Gaza Strip," according to Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel would "hit back with increasing force" against anyone who tried to ruin celebrations over the next few days of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

A Palestinian official said the Egyptian government was trying to restore calm in the escalating situation. Egypt has brokered previous cease-fires between Israel and militants in Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.

Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979 and controls the Rafah border crossing, which is Gaza's transit point to the outside world.

"Egyptian officials have made contacts with both sides to restore calm," said the official, with direct knowledge of the talks.


(China Daily 03/14/2014 page12)

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