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Israel renews deadly airstrikes in Gaza

Aug. 19, 2011 4:21 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 20, 2011 11:48 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli airstrikes and shelling killed four people in the Gaza Strip on Friday, medics said, bringing the death toll in the coastal enclave to 11 in the 24 hours since a deadly series of attacks in southern Israel.

Two Palestinians were killed late Friday in air raids near the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, a medical official said, bringing the day's death toll in Gaza to four.

Earlier, an airstrike killed Samed Abdul Mu'ty Abed while he was riding a motorcycle in the north, medics said.

Another Palestinian, a 22-year-old identified as Muhammad Enayeh, was killed in a separate attack. His body and another injured person were taken Shifa hospital in Gaza City, medics said.

Gaza medical spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said missiles also targeted a concrete factory in the same area seriously injuring two locals.

Over the past 24 hours, Israel has carried out more than a dozen airstrikes across the Gaza Strip following a series of deadly shooting attacks in the Negev desert that left eight Israelis dead.

Eleven Palestinians have now been killed and scores injured after Israeli officials blamed Gaza-based militant group the Popular Resistance Committees, although the faction has denied any involvement.

Earlier, Israeli warplanes struck An-Nuseirat refugee camp leaving one Palestinian lightly injured, said Gaza medical official Adham Abu Salmiya.

Fighter jets bombed a generator near the camp, causing a power outage across the area and missiles hit a training camp of the armed wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, witnesses said.

The Israeli military said aircraft "targeted two weapons manufacturing sites in the central Gaza Strip and a terror activity site in both the northern and southern Gaza Strip."

"This is a response to the terror attacks executed against Israel in the last 24 hours," an army statement said.

The raid came hours after Israel launched airstrikes on the Az-Zaitoun neighborhood south of Gaza City causing damage but no injuries, medics said.

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.

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.

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.

The overnight strikes followed a day of violence in which gunmen unleashed bloody mayhem on on a desert road near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

Six Israeli civilians, a soldier and a police officer were killed in several hours of attacks on a desert road some 20 kilometers north of Eilat.

Israel officials were quick to point the finger at Gaza, although the territory's Hamas rulers denied any connection to the attacks.

But the Israeli military said it held the Islamist group ultimately responsible for violence coming from the territory it controls.

"If Hamas wants an escalation, it will pay a high price," Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai told public radio on Friday, saying some form of ground operation in Gaza was not out of the question.

"All options are open, including a pin-point [ground] operation," he said.

Shortly after the attack near Eilat, Israeli warplanes attacked targets in southern Gaza which killed six people, including a two-year-old toddler and five militants from the Popular Resistance Committees.

The PRC vowed bitter revenge for the attack, which killed its leader and three other top cadres, and on Friday claimed responsibility for firing at least seven rockets and mortars into Israel.

Both sides were burying their dead on Friday, with funerals in Jerusalem for the soldier and the police officer, and a burial procession due to take place in southern Gaza for the five militants and the toddler.

As Israeli police went on high alert across Israel, the country's main newspapers painted a much clearer picture of how events unfolded on Thursday involving an estimated 15 to 20 gunmen, some wearing Egyptian army fatigues.

The first attack saw three gunmen open fire on a packed bus heading to Eilat, injuring seven people. Shortly afterwards, they opened fire on a civilian car in the same area, killing four people.

Then one of the militants detonated an explosives-packed belt he was wearing as an empty bus drove past, blowing himself up and killing the driver. Further gunfire was directed at another car, killing one man.

The soldier and the police officer were killed in two separate gunbattles with the attackers which lasted into the evening, the papers said.

Six of the attackers were killed by Israeli troops and special police forces, while the seventh blew himself up; others are believed to have fled across the Egyptian border.

In Egypt, state television said two "unidentified Egyptians" had been killed by Israeli gunfire on Thursday in an area near the site of the attacks; overnight security officials said three Egyptian policemen were also killed in the same area when an Israeli Apache fired a rocket at militants.

Egypt's state television on Thursday showed footage of rifles, grenades and army uniforms seized during an ongoing security operation in northern Sinai, while in a separate development, security officials said they had uncovered a workshop capable of producing suicide belts.

AFP contributed to this report.
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