Israeli air raids hit Gaza

Updated: 2011-08-19 15:31


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Israeli air raids hit Gaza

A Palestinian man sits on rubbles of a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza August 19, 2011. [Photo/Agencies] 

GAZA - Israeli aircraft struck Hamas security installations in Gaza on Friday, killing at least one Palestinian, in further retaliation for attacks along the Egyptian border in which eight Israelis died.

Gaza residents said three compounds controlled by the Hamas Islamist group that rules the enclave were hit in the overnight raids. Medical officials said a 13-year-old boy in a nearby building was killed and 17 people were wounded. There was no immediate word on casualties among militants.

The series of assaults by gunmen on a desert road north of Israel's Red Sea resort of Eilat on Thursday drew Israeli accusations that Egypt's new rulers were losing their grip on the porous frontier.

Israel said the attackers infiltrated from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip via Egypt's Sinai desert, despite stepped up efforts by Egyptian security forces in recent days to rein in Palestinian and Islamist radicals.

"If anyone thinks the State of Israel will resign itself to this, they are wrong," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a brief television address about the most deadly attack in Israel since 2008.

Israeli military commanders said six civilians and two soldiers were killed in attacks on two buses, a car and an army vehicle. Another 25 people were wounded.

The military said seven gunmen were killed in southern Israel, including two who blew themselves up in suicide attacks on one of the buses and in a confrontation with soldiers.

Egyptian soldiers apparently shot dead two gunmen, the military said.

Hours later, Israel struck in the Gaza Strip against the Popular Resistance Committees, an armed faction that often operates independently of Hamas. The Israeli military said the PRC was behind the border attacks.

The PRC said its commander, Kamal al-Nairab, his deputy, Immad Hammad, and three other members were killed in Thursday's air strike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

The faction vowed "double" revenge against Israel for the attack, which local Palestinians said also killed a nine-year-old son of the owner of the house.


"The people who gave the order to murder our people and hid in Gaza are no longer among the living," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on television. "I set a principle: when someone harms the citizens of Israel, we react immediately and with force."

Earlier, in an interview with Israel Radio, bus driver Benny Bilbaski said he had seen two men in fatigues shooting at his vehicle.

"I saw that there were wounded on the bus but I continued to drive on, looking straight, not looking right or left. Once I got a kilometre past the area and I was out of range we took care of the wounded," he said.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the incident "reflects the weakening of Egypt's hold in the Sinai and the broadening of activities by terror elements".

A senior Israeli official said the gunmen, unable to cross into Israel through the heavily patrolled border with the Gaza Strip, had gone into the Sinai and then infiltrated from there into southern Israel.

Later, an Egyptian army official said an Egyptian border guard and two security men were killed as the Israeli military chased militants along the frontier. The men, the official said, had been "caught in the line of fire".

In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement the "brutal and cowardly attacks" near Eilat "appear to be premeditated acts of terrorism against innocent civilians".

Clinton said the violence "only underscores our strong concerns about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula", and she urged the Egyptian government to find a lasting resolution.

Israeli officials have voiced concern that militant groups in the Sinai have been making use of a security vacuum left by the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The Israeli shekel fell against the dollar and stocks dipped on Thursday. The violence appeared to take some domestic political pressure off Netanyahu: leaders of escalating protests against high living costs called off weekend demonstrations after news of the Israeli casualties broke.

Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, recently stepped up security activity in the Sinai.

On Tuesday, Egyptian security sources said an army crackdown on armed groups in the northern Sinai had netted four Islamist militants as they prepared to blow up a gas pipeline.

Israel is building a fence along its 180-km-long (110-mile) frontier with Egypt, but very few sections have been completed.


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