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1 killed as Israel shells Gaza

Dec. 30, 2011 11:22 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 31, 2011 2:48 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces bombed Gaza City early Friday morning killing one man and wounding five others, medics said.

Momen Abu Daf, a member of militant Salafi group Ansar al-Sunna, was killed when Israeli warplanes shelled an area southeast of Gaza City, local sources said.

Five others were wounded, including one militant and four farmers, medics said. They were taken to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its forces "targeted a terrorist squad that was identified moments before firing rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip."

Abu Daf had "orchestrated and executed numerous and varied terror attacks" and "was actively involved in the preparations of the attempted terror attack on the Israel-Egypt border that was thwarted this week," the army added.

That appeared to refer to Israel's killing on Tuesday of another Salafi fighter, Abdallah Telbani, who the military said had been plotting strikes in which gunmen would circumvent the fortified Gaza border by attacking south Israel from the Sinai.

"We shoot when we're being shot at," one Israeli security official said after Friday's air strike in Gaza. "It's clear that Hamas does not have an interest in fanning the flames at this time, but it's not dousing them either."

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, responded: "Our people have the right to defend themselves, and the problem is the occupation which targets the Palestinian resistance."

Though Hamas echoes Salafi calls for Israel's ultimate destruction, its ambitions are framed within Palestinian nationalism, not al Qaeda-style global jihad, and include a possible ceasefire with the Israel which, with Egyptian help, has tried to isolate Gaza.

Hamas took over the coastal strip in a 2007 civil war against President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, which holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal and Abbas held rapprochement talks in Cairo last week against a backdrop of political upheaval across the Arab world, including Syria, where Mashaal retains a headquarters that diplomats say Hamas has scaled back.

One official said Mashaal told Abbas he was "in favor of peaceful resistance and a truce in Gaza and the West Bank at this stage", though Hamas would not meet Israel's core demand for recognition.

Two short-range rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel on Thursday and five on Wednesday, the Israeli military said. There were no casualties. The Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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