Middle East
Two Palestinians wounded in Israeli airstrike
Locals injured, one child seriously, by rocket attacks just hours after UN chief's visit to the Gaza Strip.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2012 20:23
 Dozens of Palestinians staged an angry protest as the convoy of visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon entered Gaza [EPA]

Two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were wounded by Israeli airstrikes, medical workers said, only hours after a visit by the UN chief to the territory.

According to a spokesman for Gaza emergency services, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl was seriously wounded in the attack on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya early on Friday, which also left a man moderately wounded.

Five other attacks in the central and southern Gaza Strip targeted tunnels and fields, as well as another house in Jablais in the northern Gaza Strip.

"For the talks to move ahead continuously and sustainably, I emphasise the importance for the Israeli government to create a politically conducive atmosphere"

- Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general

The Israeli military confirmed the attacks, which "targeted two weapon storing facilities in the northern Gaza Strip, three terror tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip and a weapon manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip", a statement said. 

"Direct hits were confirmed as well as secondary explosions at several targets. These sites were targeted in response to the rocket fire on communities in southern Israel," the statement noted.

The Israeli attack came hours after UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Gaza on Thursday, as part of a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories intended to help kickstart stalled negotiations.

Ban said he was hopeful for the talks to continue.

"There are still some concerns for lack of future trust, but am hopeful that this dialogue will continue in a sustainable way," he said.

"For the talks to move ahead continuously and sustainably, I emphasise the importance for the Israeli government to create a politically conducive atmosphere."

In his second term as head of the UN, Ban said on Wednesday that peace in the Middle East was one of his main priorities for 2012.

Angry demonstrators

Protesters threw shoes and small stones at Ban's convoy as he entered the Gaza Strip for the brief visit.

A correspondent with the AFP news agency on the Gaza side of the Erez crossing from Israel said a crowd of around 50 people, many of them relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, threw objects at Ban's car as he drove past.

The demonstrators were protesting what they called Ban's refusal to meet with them to discuss the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Some held signs in English reading "Ban Ki-moon, enough bias for Israel."

Ban's convoy, briefly help up by the demonstrators, was able to proceed to Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

But further demonstrations met him there at stops at a school and a Japanese-funded housing project, with protesters holding banners that read "We demand a trial for Israel's leaders".

And a group of local non-governmental organisations and businessmen announced they were boycotting a planned lunch with the UN leader after his staff refused to allow them to bring some relatives of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to the meeting.

A statement signed by some of Gaza's most prominent rights activists and businessmen said they had made "intensive efforts" to ensure relatives of Palestinian prisoners could meet Ban.

"We received an unjustified negative response indicating that the secretary-general refused to meet with representatives of families of prisoners," the statement said on Friday.

Israel holds about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, after recently freeing more than 1,000 in exchange for a captive Israeli soldier.

Relatives of prisoners from Gaza have not been able to visit them in jail since 2006, because of restrictions on who can enter Israel from the coastal strip.

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