Israelis kill five Palestinian militants


GAZA ATTACKS:FIVE PALESTINIAN militants have been killed in two incidents on the Gaza border as tension remains high following Israel’s naval interception of the Gaza aid flotilla on Monday.

Three gunmen belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip yesterday.

The cell had just launched rockets into Israel and, according to the Israeli military spokesman, were preparing to launch more projectiles when they were targeted. Earlier, two Islamic Jihad gunmen were killed in a firefight with Israeli troops after crossing the border.

In a major victory for the Hamas rulers in Gaza, Egypt yesterday opened its border with the impoverished strip, temporarily ending the economic blockade.

Thousands of Gaza residents headed towards the Rafah crossing following the opening. Murad Muwafi, the governor of the Egyptian northern Sinai, said it was a “humanitarian gesture meant to alleviate the suffering of our Palestinian brothers after the Israeli [naval] attack.”

With another two aid ships, including the Rachel Corrie, expected to try to reach Gaza in the coming days, Israel made it clear yesterday that there would be no easing of the maritime blockade, despite Monday’s fatalities. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would resist international pressure to lift the blockade on Gaza. “Yes, Palestinians smuggle arms through underground tunnels, but smuggling by sea means totally different volumes,” he said. “Opening a maritime route to Gaza poses significant danger, which is why we insist on the blockade.”

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the international community of hypocrisy. He was responding to the United Nations Security Council resolution which called for an “impartial” investigation into the naval commando raid and called for the immediate release of all the boats and activists seized by Israel.

Mr Lieberman told UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon that 500 people were killed in incidents in Thailand, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and India in the last month alone, and the world was silent. Israel, he said, was condemned for unmistakably defensive actions.

The head of the Mossad spy agency, Meir Dagan, warned yesterday that Israel was becoming less of an asset and more of a burden for the United States.

Briefing members of the Knesset parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee, Mr Dagan said: “Israel’s importance was greater when there was conflict between the superpower blocs, while this year there has been a decrease [in Israel’s importance].”

He noted that political co-operation between Washington and Jerusalem was declining. “The current administration certainly thinks that Israel’s handling of the Palestinian issue does not suit the present US approach, which says the solution to the conflict must be according to the [Bill] Clinton vision, within the 1967 borders.”