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Gaza death toll reaches 9, rocket kills Israeli

Oct. 29, 2011 10:02 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 30, 2011 5:49 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed four more fighters from Islamic Jihad's armed wing on Saturday evening, after an earlier airstrike on the coastal enclave killed five members from the group.

Medical spokesman in Gaza Adham Abu Salmiya said that two fighters from the al-Quds Brigades were killed in the strike on Rafah, south Gaza, while two more were killed in a separate strike.

He identified two victims as 21-year-old Sami Abu Sabt and 25-year-old Suleiman Abu Fatima, both from Rafah. Their bodies were transferred to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in the city, he added.

The Palestinian civil defense managed to recover the bodies of two other Palestinians killed in an Israeli airstrike on western Gaza City late Saturday. They were later identified as Suheil Jundieh and Murdi Hajjaj.

Israeli media reported that a man had died from his injuries after a projectile fired from the Gaza Strip hit the southern city of Ashkelon.

More than 20 projectiles and mortar bombs hit different sites in southern Israel on Saturday, wounding two civilians and damaging buildings, Israeli police and the army said.

Islamic Jihad, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah-aligned al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades separately took credit.

An Israeli army statement confirmed a direct hit on a site being used to fire projectiles into Israel.

Richard Miron, the spokesman for UN special envoy for the peace process Robert Serry, said the recent escalations "are very worrying."

Miron said in a statement received by Ma'an that "it is vital to de-escalate now, without delay. We strongly appeal for calm and an end to the violence and bloodshed."

Remarking on the Rafah deaths, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of a "serious escalation against our people."

Earlier, warplanes fired on southern Gaza, killing five members of Islamic Jihad's armed wing and injuring 15 others, four of them seriously, medics and security officials said.

Witnesses said two missiles hit a military site operated by the al-Quds Brigades northeast of Rafah. The attack killed Ahmad al-Sheikh Khalil, a prominent leader in the brigades.

Shortly thereafter rockets were launched toward Israeli targets, the military said. An army spokeswoman confirmed that three projectiles struck Israeli territory around 5 p.m.

President Mahmoud Abbas' office called on Israel to stop its escalation.

Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the president’s spokesman, was quoted by the official Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa as also calling on factions in Gaza “to avoid giving Israel a pretext to wage a new war on Gaza and to tighten the siege.”

Senior Hamas leader Ahmad Bahar on Saturday said that Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip were an attempt to "trick the resistance into a new round of escalation."

The latest round of Israeli violence was a way of compensating for the recent prisoner deal, which Bahar described as a “strategic victory for Palestinian resistance.”

Reuters contributed to this report
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