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Israeli airstrikes kill 7 across Gaza

Aug. 18, 2011 6:10 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 19, 2011 12:44 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Renewed airstrikes across the Gaza Strip late Thursday killed a Palestinian teenager and injured more than a dozen others amid an escalation in violence that left some 20 people dead throughout the day.

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.

A Palestinian was also missing in the Rafah tunnel area, medics said.

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.

A Ma'an correspondent described a "state of panic" across Gaza as Israel renewed bombings just hours after an airstrike killed six Palestinians in Rafah, near Egypt's border.

The airstrike hit a home belonging to Popular Resistance Committees official Khaled Shaath, who was killed instantly. His two-year-old son Malek later died of injuries sustained in the strike.

The attacks killed four others in Rafah. Among them were PRC military wing chief Abu Awad Nayrab and PRC operatives Imad Hamad, Abu Jamil Shaath and Khaled Masri, medical officials said.

Israel says three of those Palestinians were involved in planning a series of attacks that left eight Israelis dead near the southern resort city of Eilat. Israeli forces also killed five attackers, officials said.

The PRC confirmed the deaths in a statement posted to its website.

A PRC spokesman, Abu Mujahed, said Israel fired the first shots Thursday and would be held responsible for "all the consequences of its crimes" in Rafah.

The military wing of the PRC claimed responsibility for launching two rockets toward the coastal city of Ashkelon, while Israel's army said its "Iron Dome" infiltration system stopped four attacks.

An Israeli military source told Ma'an that operations were underway in southern Gaza following a series of attacks in the south of Israel, whose leadership has blamed Gaza.

The country's defense minister, Ehud Barak, said earlier in a statement that "The real source of the terror is in Gaza and we will act against them with full force and determination."

Barak also said the attack reflected a "weak Egyptian hold" on the Sinai.

PLO official Saeb Erekat urged Israel against taking any "irresponsible" actions in Gaza, saying it "stands warned of any possible aggressive action or collective punishment measures."

"Our position is clear. We are against violence in all its forms. Such violence does not advance the Palestinian cause for freedom and independence," Erekat said in a statement.

"However, we will not accept for such attacks to be used a pretext for aggression."

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, condemned the "massacre in Rafah" and told Ma'an that "this crime won’t stop the resistance and won’t stop all Palestinians."

He added that Hamas was taking every relevant action following Israel's threats.

Earlier, the interior ministry in Gaza said Egyptian authorities have closed the Rafah crossing amid the sharp increase in violence in Gaza and southern Israel.
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