At least 12 Palestinians have been killed in separate Israeli raids across the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources and Aljazeera television reported. Another was killed in Nablus in the West Bank. Gaza’s deaths include a six-month-old baby.
Also, one Israeli was killed and another lightly wounded when a Palestinian rocket landed inside Israel.
Five of those targeted and were killed on Wednesday are Hamas members, according to the Palestinian movement. Several others injured in an Israeli air raid in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.
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.
Two others were reportedly killed near a site where rockets targeting Israel were just fired. The identities of those killed in the attack in northern Gaza are yet to be confirmed.
Another, a farmer was killed while tending his land near the Bureij refugee camp, according to eyewitnesses, reported Aljazeera. Israeli military authorities, however insist that the farmer was a militant.
Those killed include Omar Abu Akr, from Khan Younis, Hasan al-Mutawak and Aziz Masoud, from Jabalia refugee camp and Mohamed Abu al-Hesain and Abdullah Adwan from the town of Beit Hanoun.
A baby boy was also killed when three missiles fired by an Israeli helicopter struck the interior ministry of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, a hospital source said.
Six-month-old Mohammed Bourai was killed when the five-storey building housing the ministry, which is 300 metres from the office of the prime minister, came under attack, the hospital source and witnesses said.
One Israeli Killed
Meanwhile, a Palestinian rocket struck a college campus in southern Israel on Wednesday, killing one person and lightly wounding a second, local daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted medics as reporting.
It is the first Israeli death resulting from Palestinian rockets in nine months, news agencies reported.
Twenty-two Qassam rockets were fired towards the southern town of Sderot, in vicinity of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon, the report said, adding that 11 of them were launched within several minutes and landed in and outside Sderot.
Hamas said the five people killed in the attack in Khan Younis were members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, its armed wing.
Two missiles directly hit the minivan they were travelling in, witnesses told Aljazeera, leaving parts of dead bodies scattered in the street.
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."
The Israeli military carries out near-daily airstrikes in Gaza, targeting Palestinian armed groups firing rockets into Israel, according to its military spokesmen. Many Palestinian civilians however were reportedly killed and wounded during the Israeli strikes at the impoverished strip, which is also subjected to a tight economic blockade.
More than 200 people have been killed since Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks in November.
The Israeli strikes and Palestinian rockets intensified following Hamas’s takeover of Gaza eight months ago, following clashes with its rival Fatah, the latter backed by Israel.
Since then, Hamas has repeated its call for truce that would end rocket launchings by Hamas and other organizations. In return, Hamas wants Israel to cease all military action in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. It also demands Israel lift a Gaza blockade that has deepened hardship among the territory’s 1.5 million people.
Israel has rejected these offers on the ground that it doesn’t honor truce with terrorist organizations. However, some analysts suggest that the Israeli rejection is politically motivated, for calm in the Gaza Strip and an improvement in the economic situation – particularly reopening trade routes through Israel and Egypt – could give Hamas a popularity boost in its power struggle with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction holds sway in the West Bank.
(PalestineChronicle.com, Aljazeera.net and Reuters)