Israel bombs Gaza interior ministry

At least 12 Palestinians and one Israeli killed in air raids and rocket attacks.

Five Hamas fighters were killed in an Israeli air strike [AFP]
Five Hamas fighters were killed in an Israeli air strike [AFP]
A Palestinian security source said another Israeli helicopter had fired on a metals workshop in the east of Gaza City late on Wednesday.
Hamas targeted
Earlier, five senior members of Hamas were killed when the vehicle they were travelling was attacked from the air near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, medical officials said.
Hamas said the five were members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, its armed wing.

The remains of the minivan hit by
Israeli missiles [AFP]

Two missiles directly hit the minivan they were travelling in, witnesses told Al Jazeera.

Dr Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza health ministry said four other people were wounded in the attack.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military confirmed that it had “carried out strikes on vehicles in Khan Younis and identified hitting them”.
Hamas said it fired rockets into Israel in response “to the Zionist massacre committed this morning in Khan Younis which led to the martyrdom of five of our best fighters”.
Israeli media said the Hamas rocket exploded in a car park at Sapir College in Sderot.
Israeli officials said a 47-year-old student was fatally struck in the heart by shrapnel while television footage showed a second man being carried on a stretcher with wounds to his legs.
Conflicting calls
The first such Israeli death in nine months intensified calls within Israel to launch a full-scale ground invasion, with the defence minister, Ehud Barak, vowing to “get those responsible”. 
Meir Sheetrit, an Israeli cabinet minister, said if it were up to him, he “would hit everything that moves with weapons and ammunition”.
“I don’t think we have to show pity for anyone who wants to kill us,” he told Army Radio. 
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, has so far resisted a large-scale invasion, saying it would cause heavy casualties on both sides.
But David Baker, his spokesman, said “Israel will be diligent in our efforts to put an end to these lethal rocket attacks”.
“Those firing rockets at our civilians will know neither rest nor have any respite from the measures we will take to stop these attacks.”
A poll published on Wednesday, before the fatal rocket attack, showed that a majority of Israelis favour talks with Hamas to stop the barrages and win release of a soldier captured in 2006.

Hamas said the rocket attacks were in revenge
for the killing of its fighters in Gaza raids [AFP]

But Israel’s government has ruled out talks with Hamas.

The spike in violence provides a troubling prelude to the latest visit by Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, whose aides confirmed would arrive on Monday for several days of talks on the US-sponsored peace process with Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
Palestinian officials said two people, including a civilian, were killed in a second Israeli air raid carried out at the time of the rocket attack.
An earlier air raid killed an al-Quds Brigades member and injured two others in east Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
Al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, said its fighters had clashed with Israeli special forces trying to sneak into the strip.
Israeli helicopters intervened and fired two missiles at the Palestinian fighters.
Separately, a Palestinian farmer was killed near Kisovim crossing in southern Gaza Strip, and in the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli undercover forces killed one man and wounded and detained four others, a Palestinian official said.
Vicious cycle
The Israeli military carries out near-daily air strikes in Gaza, targeting Palestinian armed groups firing rockets into Israel.
Hamas says attacks from the Gaza Strip, including rockets fired by its own fighters and others, are a response to Israeli military operations in the territory and the occupied West Bank and would end if Israel stopped all such activity and lifted its blockade.
In addition to its military strikes, Israel has imposed tough economic sanctions on Hamas-ruled Gaza, which have caused widespread shortages of basic goods.
On Wednesday, the area’s main water authority urged residents to boil all drinking water, citing a dire shortage of purifying chlorine as a result of the blockade.
It said there was a “major concern over a health disaster due to possible contamination of the drinking water” and appealed to the international community for help.
An Israeli military spokesman said the Palestinians did not make a request for chlorine until Wednesday and that it was working on supplying it.
Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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