Five Palestinians were killed before dawn yesterday in two separate Israeli airstrikes on Hamas military posts in the two southern Gaza towns, medics and Hamas sources said.
Israeli aircraft struck a post belonging to Hamas naval police west of Khan Younis, and then struck another post belonging to Hamas’ armed wing in the town of Rafah, Hamas sources said.
Moaweya Hassanein, chief of emergency and ambulance services in the Palestinian health ministry, told reporters that three were killed in Khan Younis and two were killed in Rafah by Israeli air-to-ground missiles.
The two Israeli air raids came shortly after Hamas armed wing, al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for killing an Israeli in a mortar attack on southern Israel.
A 48-year-old Israeli woman was killed and three wounded in the Friday afternoon attack on Kibbutz Kfar Azza near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, an Israeli army spokesman told Israeli Radio.
Al-Qassam Brigades in a leaflet said its militants had launched three mortar shells at the town.
Following the Israeli raids yesterday, Palestinian militants launched homemade Qassam rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot, hitting a house and a Jewish seminary. No one was hurt in the rocket strikes.
Hamas militants said they fired 15 homemade rockets at Israel yesterday. The Israeli military said five of them landed, one directly hitting a house in the border town of Sderot, a frequent target for militants, another landed next to a Jewish seminary and another in the courtyard of a local college.
Palestinian militants frequently fire crude rockets and mortars into southern Israel from Gaza, killing 14 people in all since late 2001. The attacks often provoke Israeli airstrikes and ground incursions that kill far more Palestinians, although hostilities have ebbed since more than 120 Palestinians were killed in a flare-up of violence two months ago.
The newest attacks make Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire on the Gaza-Israel border even more difficult. A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing said his group would “continue fire until the last moment” before a ceasefire is completed.
Although both sides appear eager to halt the fighting, Hamas also wants Israel to end its blockade of Gaza, meant to pressure the militant group to halt Palestinian militants from firing their salvos into Israel.
The blockade has caused widespread shortages of fuel and basic goods in Gaza. Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to reopen its borders with Gaza, sealed after the militant Islamic group seized control of the territory nearly a year ago.
Israel wants Hamas to release an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants nearly two years ago.
The military said on Friday that Palestinian militants have fired 1,950 mortars and rockets at Israel since the beginning of the year — almost equal to the amount fired in all of last year.