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Israeli warplanes pound Gaza Strip; no injuries

March 18, 2010 6:52 P.M. (Updated: March 20, 2010 9:47 A.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – Israeli warplanes targeted the southern Gaza Strip early Friday morning, hours after a homemade projectile killed a foreign national in southern Israel.

There were no immediate reports of injury after missiles struck at least four targets in the coastal enclave, among them two open areas in Khan Younis, a tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border, and a factory, Reuters reported.

An Israeli military spokesman told Ma'an that six targets were struck in total, including five tunnels in southern Gaza and a weapons manufacturing site in the north. Two of the tunnels were designed for infiltrating Israel, he said, and the other three for smuggling weapons.

"The IDF will not tolerate terror attacks on southern Israel," the official warned, adding that Israel "holds the Hamas terror organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip."

Israeli forces invaded Gaza from the east Thursday evening, witnesses said, clashing with Palestinian fighters east of Gaza City.

There were no reports of injury in that violence, which onlookers said was concentrated near the Ash-Shuhada Cemetery.

Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and explosions near the graveyard, as well as the sound of fighter jets hovering overhead.

A military spokesman said he was not familiar with the latest reports, but confirmed separate accounts that soldiers fired toward a suspicious person in the north.

The person was "crawling on the ground near the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip, close to the Nahal Oz humanitarian aid crossing," the military spokesman said.

"IDF forces fired toward the suspect, but did not identify a direct hit," he added.

Israel's Army Radio reported that a Palestinian man was injured by gunfire after he tried to plant an explosive device near the barrier.

Meanwhile, a projectile exploded in northern Gaza, locals said, apparently just after it was launched.

That report came about an hour after Israel said a projectile struck the Eshkol region near Gaza, causing no damage or injury.

It was the second such attack in southern Israel on Thursday, and the fourth in 24 hours, coming just after a similar projectile struck and killed a Thai citizen in Ashkelon.

Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility moments after reports from Ashkelon police said a man was injured in the Terra Seva region of the southern Israeli town.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, stressing that all acts of violence are "totally unacceptable."

"All such acts of terror and violence against civilians are totally unacceptable and contrary to international law," a representative said in statement issued in Moscow, where the secretary-general was scheduled to meet other members of the Quartet on Friday.

Hours after the Thai citizen was killed, residents heard what sounded like a dozen explosions throughout the Gaza Strip.

Gaza's director of ambulance and emergency services, Muawiya Hassanein, said no injuries were reported, and that officials believed the sounds were the results of sonic booms and not airstrikes.
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