UPDATES ISRAELI ARMY STATEMENT, ADDS HAMAS COMMENT
By Mustafa Deveci
JERUSALEM (AA) - At least three Palestinians have been martyred by Israeli airstrikes inside the Gaza Strip, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Thursday.
According to ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, the casualties included a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old baby.
Twelve others were injured in the strikes, including the woman’s husband, al-Qidra said.
The Palestinian government has issued a statement calling for immediate international intervention to stop Israel’s aggression against the blockaded enclave.
“The Israeli government and the U.S. administration are responsible for the escalations in the Gaza Strip and for the continuation of the 11-year-long blockade [of Gaza],” government spokesman Yousuf al-Mahmoud said in the statement.
“The grave threats facing the Palestinian cause require [inter-Palestinian] reconciliation and the immediate restoration of national unity by fully empowering the government in the Gaza Strip as called for by the Egypt-brokered agreement,” he said.
Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, for its part, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, condemned Israel’s practice of targeting civilians.
“Increasingly frequent artillery barrages into Gaza and the targeting of civilians is intentional,” Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif Kanou said in a statement.
“The [Israeli] occupation will bear the consequences of its actions and pay the highest price for its crimes."
“The Palestinian resistance has been forced to adopt a defensive posture and is doing its duty by repelling this aggression against our people,” he said.
The Israeli army, meanwhile, claims to have struck 140 targets across the Gaza Strip, going on to assert that Gaza-based resistance groups had recently fired 80 rockets into southern Israel, 25 of which had been intercepted.
According to reports in the Israeli press, nine Israelis have been injured by rockets fired from Gaza.
The Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, has claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks, which came after two of its fighters were killed Tuesday by Israeli strikes inside Gaza.
“Hamas has struck the enemy with a large number of rockets,” the group said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of his security cabinet -- which includes Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and senior army commanders -- to discuss mounting tensions along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.
Earlier the same day, the Israeli army shelled a Hamas position in Gaza in retaliation for an alleged Palestinian attack on Israeli military equipment deployed near the buffer zone.