IAF Strikes Kill Seven in Gaza; 40 Qassams Fired at Israel

Mother and child said among Gaza fatalities; top PRC man killed; four lightly hurt by rockets in Sderot.

The Israel Air Force killed at least seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in three separate air strikes Thursday, as Gaza militants pounded southern Israel with Qassam rocket fire for a third straight day, lightly wounding four people.

Late Thursday, an IAF strike killed at least two Hamas militants and wounded three others, Hamas security sources and Palestinian medical workers said.

The attack came hours after an IAF strike on a car in northern Gaza killed three Palestinians, including two civilians. The IDF confirmed the strike, saying it targeted a group of militants shortly after they fired rockets at Israel.

Palestinian sources said an Islamic Jihad militant was killed along with a mother and child who were riding in a donkey cart next to the militants' car. An additional Islamic Jihad man was critically wounded in the strike.

In the first air strike, Raed Abu el-Foul, a senior militant in the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees, and his wife were killed when a missile fired from the air hit their white sedan in northern Gaza, Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza health ministry said.

Two other Palestinians were wounded in the air strike, Palestinian officials said. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the strike.

The PRC pledged retaliation. "Sooner or later, [we] will, by God, avenge every drop of blood shed, and the response will be equal to the crime," the group said in a statement.

Four Israelis wounded as Qassam rockets continue to rain on Negev

Meanwhile, militants in the Gaza Strip on Thursday fired more than 40 Qassam rockets and two mortar shells at southern Israel, wounding four people.

Two Israelis were lightly hurt on Thursday when a rocket slammed into a Sderot intersection, damaging cars. The injured were both taken to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for treatment. Five other people were treated for shock.

Later Thursday, two women were lightly wounded in additional rocket strikes on Sderot. One of the woman was hurt when she fell down the stairs while running for cover.

Earlier, a rocket hit the Sapir College campus in Sderot. One woman was treated for shock.

One of the rockets hit the Negev town of Sderot, causing damage to a house but no injuries. Another rocket hit a factory, damaging cars. Five rockets struck in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council and in open fields the area. A rocket also hit near the Kibbutz Nir Am cafeteria.

According to the IDF, 118 Qassam rockets and 62 mortar shells have been fired at Israel since fighting escalated Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that Israel would continue to fight Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip as long as the rocket fire on southern Israel continued.

The fighting came a day after IAF strikes killed five Palestinians, three of them civilians, and Gaza militants launched close to 50 Qassam rockets at the western Negev.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for part of the barrage, saying it was in response to Wednesday's killing of the group's top West Bank commander during an Israel Defense Forces operation near Jenin.

On Tuesday, at least 19 Palestinians were killed, including 15 militants, in IDF air and ground operations in the coastal territory.

Also Tuesday, at least 10 people were hurt when Palestinian militants launched a barrage of Qassam rockets and mortar shells at Israel in a day of fierce fighting in Gaza.