Through the Wire

Israeli Airstrikes Kill 10 in Worst Fighting in Two Months

October 30, 2011
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa

Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli aircraft struck the Gaza Strip and killed at least 10 Palestinians, and one Israeli died in a Palestinian rocket attack, in the worst round of violence between the two sides in more than two months.

The latest strike today came hours after the Islamic Jihad movement, which had been firing rockets and mortars into Israel, accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire. The Israeli air attack targeted a group of Palestinians preparing to launch a rocket, the Israeli army spokesman said, speaking anonymously according to regulation.

Islamic Jihad “responded to the truce efforts while reserving our right to respond to any aggression,” the movement’s spokesman, Abu Ahmed, said in an e-mail to reporters in Gaza before the last attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel doesn’t “want the situation to deteriorate, but we will defend ourselves.” The remarks were sent in a text message to reporters.

The death toll in Gaza was the highest since the last two weeks of August, when more than two dozen Palestinians were killed by Israeli strikes following a terrorist attack near the southern resort city of Eilat. The violence came less than three weeks after Israel released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, a soldier held by Gazan militants for more than five years.

Israel carried out six strikes against Gaza in the past 24 hours and about 30 mortar shells and rockets from Gaza hit southern Israel, the army said. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor closed all schools today within rocket range of Gaza.

Rocket Attacks

The first casualties came when Israeli aircraft struck an Islamic Jihad training base. Five people were killed, Gaza emergency medical services head Adham Abu Selmeya said. The Israeli army said it fired on a squad that launched a rocket into Israel on Oct. 26 and which was preparing more attacks.

At least 20 rockets and mortars subsequently launched from Gaza hit several Israeli cities in the south, injuring three people, one of whom later died from his wounds, the army said. Another five Palestinians were killed in later strikes, according to Abu Selmeya.

The Israeli army said it holds the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules Gaza, responsible for attacks emanating from the strip. Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union, seized control of Gaza in 2007, ending a partnership government with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a year after winning parliamentary elections.

Shalit Agreement

“The Shalit agreement had nothing to do with the overall relationship between Israel and Hamas,” Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, said in a telephone interview. “A number of militant groups like Islamic Jihad operate independently in Gaza, and Hamas either does not want, or is not willing, to pay the costs, to rein them in.”

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina, in a statement published by the Palestinian Wafa news agency, urged Hamas and Israel to avoid an escalation. He called on Hamas “not to give Israel an opportunity to exploit the situation and relaunch a war on Gaza.”

--With assistance from Fadwa Hodali and Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem. Editors: Louis Meixler, Digby Lidstone, Dick Schumacher.

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