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16 May 2007 11:37
Israel launched an air raid on an uninhabited area of Gaza on Wednesday after warning that it would respond “in a measured fashion” to continuing rocket fire from the lawless territory.
But Israel has for the moment ruled out a wide-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip, where escalating violence between rival groups has killed 30 people in four days.
“Our aircraft bombed uninhabited sectors of the Gaza Strip from where rockets have been launched against our territory,” an army spokesperson said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
Israel had warned it would respond to the continuing attacks that have seen 21 projectiles land inside the country since the flare-up of Palestinian internecine violence on Sunday, wounding two civilians.
“We will respond, without allowing ourselves to get involved in an uncontrollable escalation of violence,” government spokesperson Miri Eisin said.
Five rockets were launched on Wednesday, with three landing inside Israel causing damage but no injuries.
Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement that is the senior partner in the Palestinian coalition Cabinet, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement.
“Israel will defend its nationals, but is a responsible state that wants to spare innocent victims among the Palestinians,” Eisin said.
“Hamas will not dictate our actions and we will operate in a measured fashion.”
Defence Minister Amir Peretz, a resident of the town of Sderot that has borne the brunt of the fire, said Israel will react “severely.”
“Israel does not want to get involved in inter-Palestinian hostilities, but will react severely,” he said in a statement.
“Israel cannot accept that nationals be victims of such attacks and will respond in an adequate fashion to assure its sovereignty and the security of its citizens.”
Sderot has been the flashpoint for Gaza rocket fire and on Wednesday the local authorities announced that schools would be closed because of the attacks.
On Sunday, Israel’s powerful security Cabinet approved carrying out targeted killings of suspected militants in Gaza to combat the nearly daily rocket fire.
But it has ruled out a wide-scale incursion to combat the attacks amid the raging internecine fighting between rival Hamas and Fatah factions.
A five-month Israeli operation against militants in Gaza between late June and November left about 400 Palestinians dead.
The incursion ended with a November 26 truce, under which Israeli troops withdrew from the territory and Palestinian militants were due to halt rocket fire.
The truce has largely held despite violations by both sides.
But the Israeli government, weakened by a scathing report on last year’s Lebanon war and a string of corruption scandals, has come under increasing pressure to do something to halt the rockets.
Despite constant aerial surveillance and regular ground incursions into launch areas, the military has failed to prevent attacks with home-made rockets that can be fired within seconds from well-hidden sites.—AFP
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