Tue, Aug 11, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza Strip tunnel at Rafah

RETALIATION No one was injured in the raid, which Israeli officials said was a response to several mortar attacks from Gaza

REUTERS , GAZA

Israeli warplanes bombed a tunnel under the Gaza Strip border with Egypt yesterday, the first such attack in almost two months, the Israeli military said.

Witnesses and officials of the Islamist group Hamas which rules the enclave confirmed the pre-dawn strike. There were no reports of casualties.

Gaza’s smuggling tunnels, which still number in the hundreds despite air attacks and an Egyptian crackdown in which some have been blown up or flooded, are a frequent target for Israeli retaliation for attacks by Gaza’s armed Palestinian groups.

Yesterday’s raid was launched in response to recent mortar and rocket attacks, an Israeli military spokeswoman said. It was the first aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip since June 18.

The aircraft had targeted a tunnel under the border at Rafah which was suspected of being used to smuggle explosives into Gaza from Egypt, she said.

On Sunday, two mortar rounds were fired near Israel’s fortified Erez border crossing as a number of medical patients going for treatment in Israel were being ferried out by ambulance. The rounds exploded about 300m from the Erez wall in Palestinian territory and no one was hurt.

On Saturday, a rocket fired from Gaza exploded on the Israeli side of the border.

Some smaller Gaza militant groups say Hamas has been trying to stop them firing rockets and mortars at Israel, which has control of the delivery of fuel and food aid to the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the enclave.

Hamas wants Israel to lift its blockade and open the border crossings. Israel says Hamas must first release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom it has held for three years.

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