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Airstrikes, rocket attacks continue

Aug. 20, 2011 12:12 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 21, 2011 11:37 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel and Palestinian armed groups battled for a third day Saturday with rockets fired from Gaza wounding three in southern Israel while Israeli planes attacked the coastal enclave in the early hours.

Israeli forces attacked a group of people in northern Gaza early Saturday injuring a Palestinian man near the city of Beit Hanoun, medical officials and witnesses said.

The man, who was not immediately identified, was standing with a group of Palestinians at a junction on the edge of the city when Israeli aircraft opened fire, a Ma'an correspondent reported.

Israel's ongoing bombardments across Gaza have left 14 Palestinians dead since Thursday and 44 injured, among them 11 children, 10 women, and three elderly people, medics say.

Seven Palestinians died late Friday and early Saturday at the height of the assault which Israel says is an ongoing response to a series of attacks Thursday that killed eight Israeli citizens.

The casualties from Saturday's early-morning rocket fire on the southern Israeli city of Ashdod were all "illegal" Palestinian workers, sleeping rough, according to Israeli police officials.

Israel radio reported that the workers, in their 20s, sustained serious injuries and were receiving treatment at a hospital in southern Israel. Israeli paramedics said they were hit by shrapnel.

"One rocket hit a house, causing damage but no casualties," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

"The second fell on open ground, among sand dunes, where it wounded three people, Palestinians staying in Israel illegally, injuring two seriously and one moderately," she said.

Several Palestinian groups have claimed rocket attacks on Israeli targets in the past 24 hours. The military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees said its operatives launched a rocket attack early Saturday.

The An-Nasser Brigades said in a statement that the rocket was in retaliation for Israeli attacks that left dead the group's commander Abu Awad An-Nayrab and four others Thursday.

Meanwhile airstrikes renewed across Gaza, targeting sites along the border with Egypt and in the north, Israel's military said.

The army said in a statement that its air force had targeted "two terror tunnels and a weapons storage facility" in southern Gaza as well as a "terror activity site" in the north.

"The terror tunnel was intended for the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory and for executing terror attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers," the statement said.

"The four sites were targeted in response to the terror attacks executed in the proximity of Eilat on Thursday, and the rockets fired from Gaza at Israel since," the statement added.

Palestinians reported no casualties from the overnight strikes but said that air raids on Friday and Thursday killed a total of 14 people and wounded over 40.

Israeli diplomatic officials were holding internal discussions on Saturday in the wake of Egypt's decision to recall its ambassador from Israel, the foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday.

"There was such an Egyptian announcement and we are holding discussions based on what has transpired," spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

Egyptian state television said Saturday that the ambassador was being withdrawn to protest the deaths of five Egyptian policemen killed during an Israeli pursuit of militants after Thursday's killings.

The Israeli military has pledged to probe the incident and advise Egypt of its findings.

"The IDF will investigate the matter thoroughly and update the Egyptians," a spokesman said Friday.

There have been conflicting reports from the Egyptian military and police about how they lost their lives.

A military official told MENA on Thursday that they were killed by stray Israeli helicopter fire aimed at the fleeing gunmen.

But on Friday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper quoted a military official as saying the policemen were killed by gunmen trying to slip in from Israel.

Enan's visit was announced shortly after another policeman was declared dead following a border gunfight on Friday, which left one of his comrades gravely wounded with a bullet in the head.

Earlier, Israeli security sources said they had information that a man had blown himself up on the Egyptian side of the border, saying they believed he was one of the men on the run.

AFP contributed to this report.

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