Palestinians: Three killed in IAF strike on vehicle in Gaza
At least 7 dead in IAF strikes over last 48 hours; 2 IDF troops wounded by anti-tank missile in Gaza.
A missile fired from an Israel Air Force aircraft hit a car in the Gaza Strip before dawn on Sunday killing three people and raising the number of Palestinians killed in IAF strikes since Saturday to seven.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed a strike had taken place on a vehicle belonging to Hamas militants and said the size of the explosion confirmed the vehicle was full of munitions.
Residents said that a second air strike aimed at a metal workshop in the northern part of the coastal territory destroyed the target and that nobody was injured.
The army spokesman confirmed the second strike was on a metal workshop in the town of Beit Lahiya.
On Saturday, an IAF strike killed a Palestinian man in the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalya, Palestinian security and medical officials said.
The Israel Defense Forces said its aircraft struck a three-person squad that had just fired a rocket at a community in southern Israel.
The Hamas militant group, which has been the target of frequent Israeli airstrikes this week, said the dead person was a teenager who did not belong to its ranks.
Separately, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a Hamas vehicle in Gaza City, but missed, Hamas said. Three people were wounded, witnesses said.
The army had no immediate comment.
Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded Saturday afternoon, when a Hamas anti-tank missile was fired at an IDF bulldozer in the northern Gaza Strip, near the Israeli border.
The two soldiers, who were sent to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon for treatment, are part of an IDF force that has been situated in northern Gaza since Thursday, in a bid to halt the Qassam rocket fire that has battered parts of southern Israel for days.
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Saturday that troops would continue operating in Gaza "as long as necessary."
In an interview with Israel Radio on Saturday morning, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that Israel would go after sensitive Hamas targets in trying to halt the rocket fire from Gaza.
Three Palestinians were killed and five were wounded Saturday after an Israel Air Force strike on a rocket launching cell south of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said.
Palestinian sources reported that one of the fatalities occured when Israel Defense Forces tanks fired at group of shepherds in the northern strip, killing one.
The IDF confirmed that an IAF aircraft had hit a launching cell. Earlier Saturday, IAF missiles struck two suspected rocket production workshops.
On Friday, IAF strikes killed seven Palestinians.
"The Palestinians need to understand that Hamas is leading them into disaster, a real disaster," Peretz told Israel Radio. "It is our intention to act against Hamas."
Asked whether the head of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Jaberi, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas could also be targets, Peretz said he wouldn't rule out any action that makes it clear to everyone that we don't intent to allow anyone to harm Israeli citizens.
"We are mainly focusing on sensitive locations tied to Hamas," he said, adding that this included places where rockets are made. The defense minister added that those involved in launching rockets should be very afraid.
Peretz added that Israel does not want to get involved in the internal fighting between Hamas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement which left dozens dead this week. However, he also said that "we certainly would like the moderate forces to emerge with the upper hand," referring to Fatah.
Peretz said the time wasn't right for a major ground offensive in Gaza, and that the military still has enough other tools to deal with the rocket threat.
The defense minister said Israel is worried about efforts by Hamas to improve the range of the rockets. He said Palestinian militants from Gaza were receiving training abroad, including in Iran, in order to improve the reach of the rockets.
Palestinian hospital officials reported Saturday that one person had been wounded by IDF tank fire. IDF tanks have been patrolling the northern edge of the coastal strip to push back rocket squads.
Earlier Saturday morning, IAF strikes hit two suspected Hamas rocket workshops in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were immediately reported.
In a separate incident, IDF tanks fired five shells in an open area near a housing project in the northern Gaza town of Jabalya, lightly wounding at least five people, hospital and security officials said.
On Friday, an IAF air strike targeted a minivan in Gaza City killing at least two Hamas operatives, wounding more than 10 others, and bringing to seven the day's death toll in IAF strikes on the group.
The IDF confirmed the air attack on a vehicle in Gaza City, but had no further details. It said it fired the tank shells at a field in northern Gaza because it had identified a rocket launch from that area and wanted to prevent further firings.
Grocery store owner Jawad Dallou said he helped to evacuate a dead body from the rubble of the vehicle hit in the Gaza City airstrike.
"We were sitting outside my grocery store when a huge explosion shook the area and a small minivan turned into a ball of fire," Dallou said.
Dozens gathered around the incinerated minivan, chanting, "God is Great" and "Death to Israel," and glorifying the armed resistance against Israel, he said.
People sitting 100 meters away in a mourning tent for a victim of recent Palestinian infighting were also wounded in the attack, Dallou added.
The wave of attacks Friday began in the early hours with a strike in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shajayah, close to the Karni crossing, in which three Hamas activists were killed. The IDF said the building targeted in the strike was used as a meeting place for Hamas members and was suspected of concealing a tunnel used to smuggle weapons and contraband into Israel. The strike also killed a fourth Hamas operative.
Several hours later, the IAF fired two missiles at a Hamas installation in the central Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officials said. There were no casualties in the attack on the Hamas Executive Force building between the towns of Khan Yunis and Dir el-Balah. The IDF confirmed it carried out a strike on a Hamas target south of Dir el-Balah, but gave no further details.
A Hamas spokesman told the group's television station that he didn't expect any casualties in the strike because the group had evacuated key locations likely to be targeted by Israel.
Also Friday, Hamas reported the death of another of its members in IAF strikes.
Haniyeh urges unityPalestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas Friday called on Palestinians to unite against "Israeli aggression" and cease internal fighting.
"All members of the security services should abide by the instructions of the political leadership and return to their positions and bases, and also all gunmen should pull out of the streets," Haniyeh told reporters.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Friday phoned U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and asked her to halt an Israeli "military escalation," a Palestinian news agency said.
A senior IDF official said Friday that the military would continue attacking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip for as long as necessary, but expressed reservations regarding an extensive ground operation at this time.
"We have to think from the end to the beginning," he said. "The question is where does an operation like this place us on the day after."
At least 10 Palestinians, most of them Hamas operatives, have been killed in IAF strikes since Thursday. Palestinian militants fired about 70 Qassam rockets at the western Negev this week, causing several injuries.
The official said Israel does not know which Hamas leader to speak to about the situation in Gaza, saying that the Hamas military wing in Gaza "operates according to its own considerations" and does not always listen to Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshal, who is in exile in Syria.
All the same, he said the clashes between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza are not expected to put captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's life at risk. Shalit was abducted by Palestinian militants near Gaza on June 25.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told dozens of diplomats at a briefing at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv that Israel is not prepared to tolerate continued Qassam fire on the Negev. She said Israel attempted to advance peace by withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, but must now exert pressure on the extremists there.
"Sometimes there are needs to show determination, to put a pressure on the extremists, to put a pressure on these terrorists, in order for them to understand that this is not something that is tolerable," Livni said in an English statement. "I think that for too long the international community took this situation in the south part of Israel as acceptable, as part of life in Israel - and it's not. And enough is enough."
The cabinet will meet Sunday to decide whether to escalate the military response.