EU's Ashton Condemns Targeting Civilians Along Gaza Border, 'Wherever They Are'

IDF attacks Gaza rocket launchers after militants in coastal Strip fire dozens of rockets at Israel in recent days, 20 of them on Saturday and another 11 overnight on Sunday.

The European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton condemned the recent flare-up along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, criticizing the targeting of civilians "wherever they are."

Earlier Sunday, the Israel Air Force on Sunday attacked a militant cell in the Gaza Strip apparently poised to launch rockets at Israel, just hours after the Islamic Jihad announced that it had accepted an Egyptian-mediated truce to end a weekend of deadly violence.

One militant from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine was killed and another was wounded in the attack, according to a member of the group. Nine other Palestinian gunmen and an Israeli civilian have been killed since the violence began last week.

Militants in Gaza have fired dozens of rockets at Israel in recent days, 20 of them on Saturday and another 11 overnight on Sunday.

ashton - AP - June 24 2011

Three of the rockets fired early Sunday struck near Ashdod after the truce was supposed to go into effect. Two of those rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile shield and another struck the south, causing no casualties or damage.

Commenting on the recent escalation along the Israel-Gaza border, Ashton indicated in a statement on Sunday that she was "very concerned at the renewed exchange of fire in Gaza Strip and the South of Israel following the firing of rockets by Islamic Jihad from Gaza into Israel."

"I wholeheartedly condemn the indiscriminate targeting of civilians where ever they are. I call on all sides to respect the ceasefire brokered by Egypt," she added.

In another response to the recent escalation, the U.S. State Department reminded both parties on Sunday that "violence will not advance, but will impede the hope for peace."

"We urge all parties to stop the violence and engage in direct negotiations, which we believe is the only way to achieve comprehensive peace," State Department Beth Gosselin spokesperson said.

Following the flare-up between Gaza militants and IDF forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday that Israel had no choice but to retaliate when faced with attack, and would stop "every attempt to fire against Israel and anyone who fires anyway".

Netanyahu told ministers gathered for a special cabinet session in Safed that Israel's defense policy was based on two principles: "Kill or be killed" and "He who harms you should bear the blood on his head."