- Associated Press - Sunday, March 11, 2012

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Israeli airstrikes killed a schoolboy and two other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, while Gaza rocket squads fired salvos into southern Israel, deepening the worst round of violence between the sides in more than a year.

A Gaza health official said a 12-year-old boy, a 60-year-old farm guard and a militant were killed as the exchanges of fire entered their third day.

Egyptian efforts to achieve a cease-fire faltered, spurned by the two factions in Gaza responsible for the rocket fire. The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted rocket launchers.

The violence has shattered a monthslong lull. It was touched off Friday by an Israeli airstrike that killed the commander of the Popular Resistance Committees militant group, an ally of Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Since then, Israeli airstrikes have killed 16 Gaza militants and two civilians, and Palestinian militants there have fired more than 120 rockets at Israel, seriously wounding two civilians.

Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said the militant killed Sunday was at a rocket launching site in Gaza City. The boy was hit while walking with a friend to school in the northern town of Jebaliya and the guard died in Gaza City while walking with his dog, which also was killed, he said.

Hundreds of Palestinian mourners marched through the streets of two Gaza towns Sunday, on their way to bury the day’s fatalities. Women wailed and men chanted slogans demanding revenge for the deaths, as militants fired guns into the air.

The boy’s body was draped in the black flag of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which was paying for the funeral and mourning expenses.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the two-dozen rockets launched from Gaza on Sunday caused no injuries. The Israeli mili tary claims casualties have been averted because Iron Dome missile-defense batteries intercepted more than 90 percent of the rockets they targeted.

Israel accused the Popular Resistance Committees commander, Zuhair al-Qaissi, of plotting an infiltration attack into southern Israel from Egypt’s lawless Sinai peninsula, similar to the one they claim he orchestrated in August, which killed eight Israelis.

The Popular Resistance Committees has never taken responsibility for the August raid. The group is best known for its role in the 2006 capture of Israeli army Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was recently freed in a prisoner swap with Hamas.

“We exacted a heavy price and continue to exact it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday of the Israeli strikes on Gaza. “We will continue to overcome these terror threats.”

Mr. Netanyahu said Israel would deploy more Iron Dome missile-defense batteries in the future.

Some 1 million Israelis are within range of rocket fire from Gaza.