Hamas Warns Israel: Halt Air Strikes on Gaza or We'll Intensify Rocket Fire

Spokesman for Hamas blames Israel for escalation in violence, says Gaza militants must fire rockets to protect Palestinian citizens; dozens of rockets fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

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Hamas said on Saturday it would escalate its attacks against Israel to include a wider range of targets if Israel failed to halt its aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip.

Dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel on Saturday, as the IDF launched several strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least four Hamas operatives, one of them a senior commander.

Militants in the Central Gaza Strip October 10, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri blamed Israel for an escalation in violence. "If the Israeli escalation continues, amid international silence and complicity, the reactions by resistance factions will broaden," he told Reuters, saying such actions would be necessary to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

Violence has flared since Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a rocket at an Israeli school bus on Thursday, critically injuring a teenager. Hamas has said it was responding to previous lethal Israeli assaults on its members.

Palestinians sources said that 18 Palestinians were killed in IDF strikes since Thursday.

More than 80 rockets had been fired at Israel's southern towns since Friday night, and two Grad rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Ofakim on Saturday, shortly after 24 mortar shells were fired at the Eshkol Regional Council.

Residents of southern Israel spent the night in protected areas as cross-border fire with Gaza militants seriously escalated overnight.

A barrage of rockets and missiles was fired at southern Israel over the last two days, and the Iron Dome anti-missile system, deployed earlier in the week for the first time, succeeded in intercepting several rockets.

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