Rocket attack kills two Israeli children

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Two young Israeli children were killed yesterday in Sderot by the second fatal rocket attack within three months launched on the Negev desert town by Palestinian militants from Gaza.

Two young Israeli children were killed yesterday in Sderot by the second fatal rocket attack within three months launched on the Negev desert town by Palestinian militants from Gaza.

The children, aged three and five, belonged to the same family and were killed when a Qassam rocket directly struck their home yesterday evening.

Another rocket landed in an alley in the town bringing the total injured in the attack to 31.

The attack, which provoked outrage and grief among local residents, is likely to trigger a further intensification of the already heavy Israeli military presence in northern Gaza designed to prevent Qassam rockets being launched into Israel.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the strike, which came after at least four Palestinians, including three militants, were killed yesterday during Israeli army operations in the area.

Shortly after the rockets hit Sderot an Israel Air Force helicopter fired a missile close to the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Army Radio reported that the rocket fire had originated from the camp. The Army moved last night to divide the Gaza strip into three, sealing off the northern, central, and southern sectors.

Troops and armoured vehicles are already heavily deployed outside the northern Gaza community of Beit Hanoun where Israeli forces mounted a five week operation after a man and a young boy were killed in a similar attack on nearby Sderot in June.

Residents of the Israeli town, which has a population of 24,000, gathered last night in the area of the strikes, some calling: "Death to Arabs." A local man, Ronen Edri, reached the site of the attack immediately after the rockets fell. He said that he saw a boy with head wounds lying in the street and tried to give him first aid.

"People were screaming and crying from shock. I tried to stem the bleeding for the boy, and then Magen David Adom [ambulance] personnel arrived and took him away."

Earlier, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed by IDF troops near Jabalya, Palestinian sources said. The sources said at least 15 other Palestinians aged 12 to 21, many of them students wearing in school uniforms, had been wounded by IDF troops after they threw stones at IDF jeeps and armoured vehicles.

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