Israeli attack kills eight Palestinians after mortar bomb hits Gaza house


AT LEAST eight Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza yesterday in the most serious escalation since the Israeli military invasion in December 2008.

Four people, including boys aged 11 and 16, were killed when an Israeli mortar hit a home in the Gaza city neighbourhood of Tufah.

Eyewitnesses said the boys were playing football when the mortar landed.

Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak expressed regret over the civilian casualties.

“We were not happy about it but that’s the price of dealing every day with the terrorists attacking our civilian population from within the civilian population on the other side.”

In a separate attack, four men, identified as Islamic Jihad gunmen, were killed when an Israeli missile landed in the Gaza city neighbourhood of Zeitoun.

The Israeli army said the men were on their way to carry out a rocket attack and belonged to the cell responsible for the firing of a long-range Grad missile at the city of Beersheba last month. The Israeli strikes follow a few days of particularly heavy militant mortar and rocket fire from the strip. On Saturday alone, more than 50 mortars landed in southern Israel.

Representatives of the militant factions in Gaza vowed to avenge yesterday’s deaths. A Hamas official said Israel won’t feel secure as long at the Palestinian people don’t feel secure.

The Islamic Jihad spokesman said its men were “committed to respond to the massacre conducted by Israel”.

In an apparent move to ease tensions, Hamas officials said the organisation was seeking to preserve the unofficial ceasefire with Israel.