Toll from Israel Gaza strikes now 14 militants

 

The worst exchange of strikes between Israel and the Gaza Strip so far this year entered its second day today, as Israeli aircraft carried out raids that have so far killed 14 militants according to a Palestinian count, and militants responded with nearly 100 rockets.

The flare-up began yesterday with a strike on a commander who the Israelis say was planning an attack. This unleashed a fierce rocket barrage by Palestinian militants from the coastal territory toward Israel's southern border communities. One of those rockets seriously wounded an Israeli civilian and sent families scattering into bomb shelters. 

By midday today, militants fired 92 rockets at Israel — far more than the total number fired from the beginning of this year until this exchange of strikes began, a military spokesman said. He spoke anonymously in line with military regulations. 

Egypt said it was trying to shackle together a cease-fire to halt the violence, but truce hopes seemed distant. 

Gaza residents said they could hear the low whooshing noise of militants firing rockets from border areas toward Israel. 

In the skies above them Israeli drones hovered, making tinny noises. Hundreds of Palestinian mourners gathered on the streets to bury their dead. They were carried in coffins, their bodies too torn up to be wrapped up in cloth, as Muslim tradition dictates. Masked militants among them sprayed machine gun fire above their heads in angry grief. 

On Israel's southern border areas, residents were told to stay home and to refrain from holding large outdoor events. 

Palestinian militants said they would press on. 

Gaza's Hamas rulers condemned the Israeli strike but, pointedly, their militants did not fire rockets at Israel. Still, Israel's military said it would hold the militant group responsible for any attacks that initiated from Gaza. 

The Palestinian militants were killed in eight airstrikes overnight and this morning, said Gaza health spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya. He said some 20 more civilians were wounded by flying shrapnel from the exploding missiles, some of which targeted militants deep in civilian areas of the crowded territory. 

The most recent airstrike targeted two Palestinian militants on a motorbike in the border town of Bani Suheila in the south-east of Gaza, Abu Salmiya said. 

The flare-up began midmorning yesterday, when an Israeli airstrike targeted the commander of one of the militant groups behind the abduction of an Israeli soldier five years ago. 

Zuhair Al-Qaissi's killing prompted Palestinian militants in Gaza to fire over 92 rockets at Israel so far, according to the latest count by Israel's military. 

The military said its air defence systems intercepted some 25 rockets before they landed. 

Some of the militants killed were planning to fire rockets, said Palestinian militant spokespeople. Other militants were targeted, but it wasn't immediately clear why. 

Three militants walking on Gaza City's main upscale boulevard were hit by an airstrike last night, leaving a shallow gash in the road. Another was hit while driving a car in the central Gaza City town of Deir al-Balah. 

The Israeli military said it targeted Zuhair al-Qaissi, the commander of the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group closely aligned with Gaza's Hamas rulers. 

It was the highest profile killing Israel has undertaken against militants in the coastal strip in several months. 

The military said al-Qaissi was plotting an infiltration attack into Israel similar to the raid from Egypt's Sinai peninsula that they claim he orchestrated in August, which killed eight Israelis and injured 40 more. 

The militant group has never taken responsibility for the attack. 

The explosion tore apart al-Qaissi's blue sedan and killed his son-in-law, Mahmoud Hanini — himself a top PRC field commander. Another low-ranking Gaza militant also died. 

That strike unleashed the furious Palestinian response. 

"(We) won't give this occupation a free truce while our leaders and heroes are being killed," said Abu Mujahid, spokesman for al-Qaissi's group. 

"Although the price will be difficult, there is no choice," he said. 

Israel said it would continue to defend its civilians. 

"The (army) is prepared to defend the residents of Israel and will respond with strength and determination against any attempt to execute terrorist attacks," the military said in a statement. The military warned Hamas would "bear the consequences" of any attacks launched from Gaza. 

Egypt's envoy to the Palestinians said Israel had violated a long-unspoken truce on the Gaza border and called for calm. 

"We are calling on all sides to return to a cease-fire," said Egyptian consul Yasser Usman from the West Bank city of Ramallah. 

Gaza's Hamas rulers condemned the Israeli strike. But in a pointed message, they did not let their militants fire rockets at Israel. Instead, they quietly allowed other Palestinian militants to unleash salvos. 

In previous flare-ups, Hamas has used such a strategy to allow Palestinian militants to burn off their anger, with an eye towards the exchange of strikes eventually quieting down. 

The Popular Resistance Committees are responsible for dozens of deadly attacks against Israelis and its members are among the most active rocket launchers from Gaza into Israel. 

But the group is mostly known for carrying out the 2006 abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit and holding on to him for more than five years until he was freed for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners last year. 

Israel often targets Gaza militants it says are preparing attacks, but tensions have been relatively calm in recent months with Israel mostly targeting smuggling tunnels from Egypt and refraining from attacking individuals. Al-Qaissi, who is also known as Abu Ibrahim, is the highest profile casualty in Gaza since his predecessor, Kamal Nairab, was killed seven months ago in a similar fashion. 

The Israeli military insisted it did not want an escalation but said it was "prepared to defend the residents of Israel."

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas