Israel kills at least 7 in Gaza

Israel kills at least 7 in Gaza
# 07 February 2008 17:16 (UTC +04:00)
Escalating violence in and around Gaza has now seen 19 Palestinians, mostly militants, killed in Israeli strikes and several Israelis, including two young children, wounded by militant rocket attacks during the past week.
In one air strike on Thursday, four militants -- three from the armed wing of Hamas and a fourth from Islamic Jihad -- were killed near Jabaliya in the north of the territory by a missile fired from a drone.
A second air raid saw two militants killed near Tuffah north of Gaza City, while four others were wounded, two of them seriously, medics said.
Hamas said Israeli ground forces were also operating in the area, while an Israeli military spokesman said only that "an army operation is underway."
The teacher was killed when an Israeli tank shell slammed into a high school in the northern town of Beit Hanun, wounding three students, medics said.
Hamas militants launched at least 14 rockets and mortars at Israel, with one lightly wounding two civilians.
On Wednesday, two children aged two and four were wounded after a rocket hit their home in southern Israel, medics said.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday vowed to press on with the Gaza strikes as long as rocket fire continues.
"If the rocket fire from Gaza continues, we will intensify our operations and strikes against the other side, until a solution is found," Barak told reporters during a visit in the south of the country.
Since Israelis and Palestinians renewed peace talks in late November after a seven-year freeze, at least 168 people have been killed in violence between the two sides, most of them militants in Gaza, according to an AFP tally.
Israel went on the offensive on Tuesday as Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza since violently seizing power there in June 2007 -- claimed responsibility for the first suicide bombing inside the Jewish state in a year.
It was the first time Hamas had claimed an attack since August 2004.
Twelve Gaza militants have been killed since Monday, all but one Hamas, and the group has vowed revenge, retaliating with rocket and mortar fire.
Israel has been on alert since Monday’s bombing -- the first suicide attack in the Jewish state since January last year -- in the southern desert town of Dimona that killed one woman and wounded nearly a dozen other people.
The attack came after a nearly two-week breach of the Gaza-Egypt border, which raised fears in Israel that Gaza militants could have entered the Jewish state. It was resealed by Egyptian and Hamas forces on Sunday.
Israel has increasingly tightened restrictions on Gaza since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, notably in June 2006 after militants seized a soldier and a year later when Hamas took control.
In October, Israel began reducing fuel supplies to Gaza, sparking an outcry by rights groups which warned of dire consequences for hospitals and other basic infrastructure on which Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants rely.
Aids groups say Israel is expected to further reduce the amount of electricity it supplies to Gaza, over the next two weeks shaving 1.5 megawatts off the 120 megawatts it currently provides.
New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Israel of "collective punishment" over the supply cuts in its campaign to halt the near-daily rocket attacks launched by Palestinian militants at southern Israel.
"Israel views restricting fuel and electricity to Gaza as a way to pressure Palestinian armed groups to stop their rocket and suicide attacks," HRW’s Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement.
"But the cuts are seriously affecting civilians who have nothing to do with these armed groups, and that violates a fundamental principle of the laws of war." /APA/