Israel kills five more Gaza militants; rockets hit Israel

Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:50pm EST
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli warplanes killed five militants in Gaza on Saturday, the second day of cross-border violence in which Palestinian fighters have fired dozens of rockets into Israel, both sides said. Fifteen militants in the Gaza Strip have been killed since Friday, Hamas medics said. On Saturday, a gunman was killed in a vehicle near Gaza's border with Egypt. Earlier in the day Israeli jets killed two gunmen on a motorcycle and two others in a pre-dawn attack, officials in Gaza said. The sounds of explosions and rocket fire reverberated across coastal Gaza and southern Israel early on Saturday and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said its air strikes would continue.

"This round in the Strip is still far from over," he told reporters on a visit to the south of Israel, where around half a million people have been told to stay indoors and keep bomb shelters open.

Six people in southern Israel have been injured by rockets fired from Gaza. One man, a Thai worker, was reported to be in a serious condition.


Militant groups in Hamas-ruled Gaza vowed to exact revenge for Friday's killings and the Israeli military said more than 90 rockets had been fired at its territory since Friday, including 25 longer-range Grad rockets which Israel's "Iron Dome" missile interceptor system shot down.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told local officials in towns under fire the Jewish state would "continue to strike at all those who plan to attack Israeli citizens". He promised to supply additional missile defense batteries. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), an armed faction largely independent of Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers, said it had fired most of the rockets and mortars. The escalating violence drew appeals for a ceasefire from the United Nations, European Union, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and neighboring Egypt, whose peace treaty with Israel has been tested by last year's toppling of Hosni Mubarak. EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, expressed concern. "I urge all sides to re-establish calm," she said in a statement.

Richard Miron, a spokesman for U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry, called for "both sides to exercise maximum restraint" and condemned rocket firings at Israel.


Palestinians react at a hospital following an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip March 10, 2012. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa