Deadly Israeli air raid on Gaza

Two bodies retrieved following overnight bombing of coastal territory.

    Israel is under pressure to end the blockade of Gaza so residents are not reliant on smuggling [AFP]

    "Our planes attacked an armoury in the north of the Gaza Strip and two tunnels used for gunrunning in the south" from Egypt, the spokesman said on Friday.

    He said the raids came in retaliation for over 10 mortar shells fired from Gaza into Israel on Thursday, seven of which landed in Israel causing no injuries.

    EU Gaza invite

    Meanwhile, Israel's foreign minister has invited his Italian counterpart to lead a delegation of European ministers on a visit to the Gaza Strip.

    The invitation was made during a meeting between Avigdor Lieberman and Franco Frattini in the Italian city of Rome and comes as calls mount for Israel to ease its three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    The proposed visit would include Israeli towns along the Gaza border that have been hit by Palestinian rocket fire as well as locations inside the territory.

    "Frattini has taken note of the Israeli proposal and will give a response after discussing it with his European and international partners," the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

    "There was not, therefore, neither an acceptance nor a decision by minister Frattini," the statement said.

    Convoy attack

    Israel has denied foreign diplomats access to Gaza through its checkpoints since tightening the blockade in 2007, a move that has been criticised by the international community as collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians.

    IN DEPTH

    Pressure has mounted on Israel to scrap the crippling blockade, which stops many basic goods reaching the population, after an international outcry earlier this month over the killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists during a raid on a convoy of Gaza-bound ships.

    In an effort to ease international condemnation, Israel eased the restrictions saying it would allow civilian items in while still preventing weapons and certain dual-use items from entering.

    Werner Faymann, the prime minister of Austria, was the latest EU official to condemn the siege on Thursday.

    Faymann urged Israel to put an end to the blockade and called for improvement of living conditions in the coastal territory.

    "We have to improve the situation, the living situation of people in Gaza Strip. To support people in the Gaza Strip and improve their living conditions it's necessary to end the blockade," Faymann said during a news conference with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president.

    Friday also marked the fourth anniversary of the capture of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier being held by Hamas in the Gaza strip.

    Hamas wants to exchange 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Shalit, but Israel has refused the swap.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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