Israeli aircraft attack Gaza target (Reuters)
19 March 2010, 6:38 AMGAZA - Israeli aircraft struck at least six targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday a day after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave killed a Thai worker in Israel, Hamas security officials and witnesses said.
Two civilians were wounded in one of three attacks on smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt. The other targets included two open areas in Khan Younis and a metal foundry near Gaza City.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed six sites had been targeted, including two tunnels dug near the Israeli border fence and a weapons manufacturing site, and added “direct hits were identified.”
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom had said on Thursday Israel would make a strong response to what was the first deadly rocket fire from Hamas-ruled Gaza at Israel in more than a year.
Israel also sent a letter of complaint to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is due to visit Israel at the weekend, and the U.N. Security Council.
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev urged Ban to call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in 2006. Hamas has demanded Israel free hundreds of the thousands of militants in its jails in exchange for the soldier.
A previously unknown group, Ansar al-Sunna, believed to share the hardline ideology of al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire at Israel, as well as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a wing of the mainstream Fatah movement.
Hamas Islamists, who took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, had been urging other militant groups not to strike Israel, voicing concern about possible Israeli retaliation.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have carried out sporadic rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel since the end of a three-week Gaza war in January 2009, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed, usually without causing any casualties.
The Israeli military spokesman said more than 330 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the war. “We will continue to act against anyone who executes terror attacks against Israel,” he said, reading a prepared statement.
Israel has responded to most ovoid casualties as a signal to Hamas Israel holds it responsible while aware it was not behind the rocket fire, and to avert the appearance of disrupting U.S.-backed diplomacy in the region.
The latest air strikes took place the day of a meeting of Quartet Middle East power mediators in Moscow and just ahead of a planned visit by U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who is seeking to relaunch moribund peace talks in the region.