Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 1 News List

War escalates as rockets from Lebanon hit Israel

‘UNACCEPTABLE’The Red Cross accused Israeli soldiers of failing to meet their obligations under international law to care for and evacuate the wounded in Gaza

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM, BEIRUT AND GAZA CITYAGENCIES, JERUSALEM, BE

Members of LA Jews for Peace hold a silent peace vigil protesting the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza outside the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

Three rockets fired from Lebanon struck northern Israel yesterday, slightly wounding two people and prompting the Jewish state to respond with artillery fire, officials said.

The attack occurred on the 13th day of the Jewish state’s offensive in the Gaza Strip to the south.

It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets.

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Israeli police, said the rockets struck three different places in northern Israel’s Galilee region.

An Israeli military spokesman said Israel mounted “a pinpoint response at the source of [the rocket] fire.” A security source said Israel fired five artillery shells.

The Lebanese prime minister condemned the rocket firing into Israel yesterday as well as the Israeli retaliation, saying the attack from south Lebanon were designed to draw Lebanon into a confrontation.

It was unclear who had fired the rockets from Lebanon and whether it signaled the start of a wider conflict or was limited. But the exchange was certain to raise tensions between the militant group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, which is a Hamas ally, and Israel.

In a statement, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said Lebanon was committed to a UN-brokered truce that ended the 2006 war.

Siniora did not name the attackers. An army statement earlier said “an unknown group” was responsible.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. Hezbollah had no immediate comment.

Earlier yesterday, Palestinian defense officials said Israeli warplanes pounded at least 40 targets in Gaza overnight, concentrating the heaviest fire on suspected arms-smuggling tunnels on Gaza’s border with Egypt.

Most of the strikes were in the border town of Rafah, where Israel had threatened attacks overnight, and in the southern city of Khan Yunis. Israel also continued strikes in the north of the densely populated coastal strip.

In Rafah, the first reported attack was around 1am, when a house and a suspected tunnel were hit near the border, witnesses said.

In Gaza City, meanwhile, three people were hurt when an air strike destroyed the Al-Taqwa mosque late on Wednesday, medics said.

Just before dawn, witnesses said, an air strike destroyed the home of Mohammed al-Sinwar, a senior commander of Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in Khan Yunis. No casualties were reported.

A man, his three sons and a nephew were killed in one attack at the Jabaliya refugee camp and an air strike killed two men in Khan Yunis on Wednesday night, medics said. Witnesses said the pair belonged to Hamas.

The Red Cross yesterday accused Israel of failing to help wounded people in an area of Gaza where its rescuers found four small children huddling next to their dead mothers, too weak to stand up.

The Israeli military “failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in an unusually blunt statement.

It said Israeli soldiers tried to force the rescuers to leave when they finally reached the grisly scene in Zeitun neighborhood on Wednesday, four days after safe-passage had been requested.

The delay in allowing access to rescuers was “unacceptable,” the ICRC said.

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