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Sustained Attacks on Gaza: 15 Dead in Two Days

Second Day of Increased Violence Sees More Israeli Airstrikes

- Common Dreams staff

Up to 15 are now dead in what is said to be the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian flare-up in more than three years. Israeli strikes began on Friday when an air raid killed Zohair al-Qaisi, the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza.Palestinian mourn over the body of Hazem Kerekeaa in the al-Shifa hospital morgue on March 9, 2012. (AFP/Getty)

Al-Jazeera reports:

At least 14 Palestinians have been killed and a dozen others wounded, including children, in a series of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, medical sources have said.

On Saturday an Israeli drone targetted a motorbike in Khan Younis, south of Gaza city, killing one person.

The airstrike late on Friday struck down three Palestinians after an apache fired rockets that hit a house and a car, medics told Al Jazeera.

An earlier strike targeted the leader of Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair Al-Qaissi, and his military escort Mahmoud Al-Hannani, a Palestinian prisoner released from Israeli jails five years ago.

Witnesses said Israeli drones were seen hovering above just moments before al-Qaissi's vehicle burst into flames. The intensity of the blast was so fierce that al-Qaissi's head detached as a result, they said.

Islamic Jihad said that the three of those killed belonged to its military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, looking to end Israel’s occupation of annexed Palestinian lands.

The Al Quds Brigades, part of Islamic Jihad group, said that strikes on the east side of the city had killed its members Obeid al-Gharabli, Mohammed Harara, Hazem Qoureqa and Shadi Seqali. It said that another two of its members, Fayeq Saad and Moatasem Hajaj, were also killed in other strikes.

In addition to the high profile strike, Israeli war jets carried out series of attacks at empty military training camps all over Gaza Strip.

The Israeli attacks came after Palestinians fired dozens of rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel, wounding four people, one seriously, Israeli military sources claimed.

***

Agence France-Presse reports:

A new Israeli air strike killed a man in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday and left a second man clinically dead, Palestinian medical officials said.

They said that the two were hit while riding a motorcycle in the town of Khan Yunis.

Medics said the attack brought to 14 the number of Palestinians killed in 24 hours of cross-border violence in which Israeli aircraft pounded Gaza and Palestinian militants fired at least 70 rockets and mortar rounds into the Jewish state.

It was the deadliest flare-up in more than three years.

The Israeli military said earlier the air force carried out attacks on a range of targets, including a militant leader.

At least 20 Palestinians were wounded in the string of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday and Saturday, Palestinian medics said.

The Palestinian barrage on Israel, which started on Friday morning, injured four people, one of them seriously, Israeli military sources said.

***

Reuters reports:

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, blamed Israel for the violence and called for Western intervention to try and halt any further escalation which threatened to complicate rife tensions along the restive Israeli-Gaza frontier and their common border with Egypt.

"This Israeli escalation in Gaza is completely condemned and we urge the world community, and the Quartet (of Middle East power brokers), especially the United States, to put enough pressure on Israeli government to stop this escalation," Rdainah told Reuters television.

After weeks of relative calm, violence along the Israeli-Gaza frontier escalated on Friday when Israel blew up a car in Gaza City, killing two militant leaders. [...]

The sounds of explosions and rocket fire reverberated across coastal Gaza and parts of southern Israel early on Saturday. Some half a million people were urged to remain indoors and keep bomb shelters open, and public events were cancelled.

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