‘Three Palestinians killed’ in Israeli Gaza strike

Africaasia | April 2, 2011

Three Palestinians were killed and one wounded in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, according to medical staff and witnesses.

They said the target was a car driving between the town of Khan Yunis and the Deir al-Balah refugee camp. The identities of the dead were not immediately known.

Witnesses said they saw three charred bodies dragged from the burnt-out vehicle on Saturday.

An Israeli military spokesman said the raid, planned jointly with the Shin Bet domestic security agency, was a preemptive strike against militants planning to kidnap Israelis during the coming Jewish festival of Passover.

“An Israel Air Force aircraft hit a Hamas terror cell…planning to carry out kidnapping attacks in the Sinai Peninsular and in Israel during the Passover holiday,” he told AFP.

The Sinai coast of neighbouring Egypt is a popular destination for Israelis during the week-long holiday which begins on April 18 and commemorates the biblical Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

Israeli public opinion is still inflamed over the capture by militants of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid into Israel in 2006.

Shalit is still missing, believed held somewhere in the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday an Israeli air strike on southern Gaza killed an Islamic Jihad militant and wounded another, but generally the past few days have seen a return to relative calm after a spate of Palestinian rocket atacks into Israel and Israeli counterstrikes on Gaza.

The spate of tit-for-tat violence began on March 16 when a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area in southern Israel, without causing casualties or damage.

Within hours, the Israeli air force hit back, killing two militants from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, in what some saw as a disproportionate response.

Two days later, Hamas militants responded, firing a barrage of around 50 mortar shells at the southern Israeli city of Beersheva in the fiercest bombardment in two years.

On Sunday the military made a trial deployment outside Beersheva of the first batteries of its “Iron Dome” short-range missile defence system.

But officials said that the multi-million dollar system, the first of its kind in the world, could not yet provide complete protection from all the rockets and mortar bombs fired from Gaza into Israel.

Each battery comprises detection and tracking radar, state-of-the-art fire control software and three launchers, each with 20 interceptor missiles, military sources said.

Despite the spike in tension of late, both Israel and the militant Islamic Hamas, which rules Gaza, appear reluctant to be dragged into another bloody confrontation along the lines of the December 2008 – January 2009 war, which killed more than 1,400 people, the vast majority Palestinians.

Source

Related to the overview

Gaza under Attack | April 2, 2011

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