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Israeli air strike kills four activists; five rounds of projectiles launched from Gaza

Nov. 16, 2008 9:28 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 16, 2008 9:28 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip twice on Sunday, killing four Palestinian fighters in the first strike, which followed a salvo of Palestinian homemade projectiles fired into Israel.

The day saw five separate rounds of projectiles launched at Israeli targets by Palestinian military factions. Two Israelis were slightly injured and four others were treated for shock when one rocket struck a house in the town of Sderot.

Sunday's events unfolded in waves of retaliatory violence:

Dawn - Homemade projectiles were launched by the An-Nasser Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), at a western Negev Kibbutz. No injuries were reported.

9am - An Israeli air strike killed four activists east of Gaza City. Palestinian medical sources said the victims of the Israeli air strike arrived at the hospital "torn to pieces," and added that the severe damage to their bodies was accomplished by a missile fired from an Israeli reconnaissance plane.

The victims of the Israeli attack were identified as 23-year-old Talal Al-Aamudi, Muhammad Hassuna, Ahmad Al-Hilou and Basil Al-If, all in their twenties. Spokesperson of the An-Nasser Brigades Abu Ataya said the four men were on a 'jihadist mission' when they came under Israeli fire.

10am - The An-Nasser Brigades called for unified action against Israeli aggression, urging all resistance factions to revenge the deaths of the fighters and continue acting against the "Israeli atrocities."

PRC spokesperson Abu Mujahid also called on resistance factions in the Gaza Strip to act against the "Israeli crimes."

10:30 - Hamas joined the call for factional cooperation to resist Israeli actions. Party spokesperson Ismail Radwan said Hamas would not be "handcuffed" by the ceasefire, and vowed to respond to the Israeli violations. He said he held Israel responsible for the collapse of the ceasefire.

Senior Hamas leader Salah Al-Bardawil weighed in calling the early morning incident a "crime against our people," and accused Israel of "crossing all lines." He said Israel was "playing with the ceasefire" as a test of Palestinian resistance and capabilities.

1pm - Following up on their vow for revenge the An-Nasser Brigades launched a second round of shells and projectiles at Sderot and Karem Shalom crossing. No Israeli injuries were reported.

1:30pm - Responding to the call for collective action, the Ayman Juda unit of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades launched a mortar shell towards Erez crossing. No Israeli casualties were reported.

3:30pm - The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), also responded to the call for revenge against the death of the four activists, and launched two homemade projectiles at Sderot.

6:00pm - The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claims responsibility for launching a projectile at the western Negev.

Later a group calling itself the Al-Mujahidin Brigades claimed responsibility for firing two projectiles at Sderot, around the same time that Israelis were reported injured in the town.

Official Israeli reaction

Responding to the reports of Sunday morning projectiles Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to keep Gaza crossing points closed.

A series of consultations are scheduled for this evening in Israel to discuss reopening crossings.

Barak declared yesterday that the situation in Israeli towns bordering Gaza is "unbearable" and Israel could not allow the situation to continue.

A wide-scale military action has not been ruled out by Israeli military leaders.

Background

On 4 November Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, flagrantly violating the five month truce that had been in place. Since then Palestinian factions have resumed launching homemade projectiles at areas inside Israel. Israel has counter attacked with several air raids, killing at least 15 activists.

Israel has also sealed off the borders with the area and prevented the delivery of emergency food and fuel supplies, leaving the area dark, bakeries closed and UNRWA food aid warehouses empty.

UN agencies have warned of an impending crisis as Gazans "start to get hungry."

***Updated 20:27 Bethlehem time

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