Egypt seeks to restore calm on Gaza-Israel border


EGYPT IS working to restore calm on the Gaza-Israel border after two days of violence sparked by an Israeli air strike on Thursday that killed two Palestinian militants.

Palestinian gunmen fired at least nine rockets into southern Israel yesterday after a resident of Gaza was killed and more than 20 wounded in an Israeli air strike earlier in the day.

Gaza residents said a 42-year-old civilian was killed in an Israeli air strike on Hamas training facility. Seven members of the man’s family were wounded, including his father, wife and five of his children.

A statement by the Israeli military expressed regret over the civilian casualties but put the blame on Hamas for using civilians as “human shields”, saying “additional blasts were caused by the presence of arms in terrorist centres that were attacked”.

Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, accused Israel of an unjustified and serious escalation.

“We are pursuing intensive contacts with several Arab and international parties, and we stress the necessity of this aggression being stopped immediately,” he told reporters.

Residents of southern Israel were ordered to stay close to bomb shelters. Sirens sounded in areas of the south on Thursday and Friday and Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted a rocket heading towards the large port city of Ashdod.

Most of the projectiles landed in open areas and no one was hurt.

The latest round of cross-border violence began on Thursday when two Palestinian militants were killed in an Israeli drone attack while driving near Gaza city.

Prior to the attack Israeli forces had been on high alert in the south of the country after intelligence information was received that militants were planning to carry out a cross-border attack from the Egyptian Sinai.

The Israeli military said the two Gaza militants who were killed were involved in planning the Sinai operation, describing them as “ticking bombs”and therefore legitimate targets.

In the West Bank yesterday a Palestinian protester was seriously wounded after being shot at close range with a tear gas grenade by an Israeli soldier during protests against Jewish settlements.

The man was taken by helicopter to an Israeli hospital for treatment.