ISRAELI warplanes have struck three sites in the Islamist-run Palestinian Gaza Strip, wounding six people, after a rocket and mortar rounds were fired into Israel from the coastal enclave.
“The targeting of these terror-linked sites was in response to the firing of rockets at Israel’s southern communities over the past two days,” the military said overnight. In a statement, the military said 10 mortar rounds and a military-grade Grad-type rocket were fired into Israel from Gaza, causing no casualties.
Adham Abu Selmiya, a spokesman for the Hamas-run medical services in Gaza, said four people were wounded in a strike that targeted a house east of the central town of Deir al-Balah. The injured, who included two women, were taken to Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, he told AFP. A separate air strike on the southern town of Khan Yunis lightly wounded two people, one of them a child, Abu Selmiya said.
The Israeli military said the strike near Deir al-Balah targeted two tunnels being dug towards the border with southern Israel, but had no details on the attack in Khan Yunis. Earlier on Friday local time, a Soviet-designed Grad rocket fired from Gaza damaged a tanker truck in an attack the Israeli military described as “the first of its kind for several months.”
Grad-type rockets have a range of up to 40 kilometres (25 miles), about twice the distance of the home-made Qassam rockets usually used by Palestinian militants in Gaza. Israeli media reported that one of the mortar rounds fired at Israel was a white phosphorus bomb. Police could not immediately confirm the report. However, Palestinian militants have fired such projectiles in the past.
Israel came under heavy criticism during the 22-day offensive it launched on Gaza in December 2008 for using these rounds and has since changed its procedures for using phosphorus. Under international law, white phosphorus is banned for use near civilians, but is permitted for creating a smoke screen.
An Islamist militant group, the Al-Nasser Brigades, claimed responsibility for the overnight mortar attack, saying it had fired six rounds in “retaliation for the assassination by Israel”. The statement was an apparent reference to an Israeli strike on Wednesday that killed Islam Yassin, 39, and his brother Mohammed, 20, both members of the Army of Islam, a radical group with an ideology similar to al-Qaeda.
Separately overnight, Israeli gunfire wounded a 22-year-old Palestinian near the border in northern Gaza as he collected gravel for construction. About 70 Palestinians have been wounded and two killed while picking up building materials at the border since the end of the Gaza offensive in January 2009, emergency services spokesman Abu Selmiya said.
The Israeli military confirmed it shot the man after he entered the border area and refused to withdraw when warning shots were fired. Israel cited persistent rocket fire from Gaza as its reason for launching “Operation Cast Lead,” the 2008 offensive that killed more than 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
Since the beginning of this year, more than 180 rockets and shells have been fired towards Israel from Gaza, according to the Israeli military.