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5 die in strikes on Gaza; militants barrage Israel
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli airstrikes killed three Palestinian civilians and two militants in the Gaza Strip on Monday and Palestinian rocket squads barraged southern Israel in escalating fighting that defied international truce efforts.
A high school student, a father and daughter were among the dead.
The fighting has so far killed 23 Gazans, including 18 militants, seriously wounded two Israelis, and disrupted the lives of 1 million Israelis living within the range of Gaza rockets.
At a news conference in Gaza City on Monday, masked members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing demanded Israel cease fire first and stop targeting militants.
“We warn the leaders of the enemy of the consequences of testing our patience. Our patience is limited and shall be turned into fire and destruction upon them,” one of the masked men said.
Chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Israel would halt its raids if the rocket fire stopped, but added that the Israeli military would continue to take pre-emptive action to foil militant attack plans.
Israel said it launched Friday’s initial airstrike to stop a militant group’s plan to infiltrate into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. In the past, similar flare-ups have died out by themselves or with informal cease-fires negotiated by third parties, often Egypt.
In this case too, Egypt has been trying to mediate an end to the clashes, and Hamas has also appealed to other Mideast countries to join the truce attempts. But by Monday afternoon, there was no sign of progress.
On Monday, Israeli aircraft swooped down on Gaza 11 times by midday, striking what the military said were rocket-launching sites and a weapons storage facility. Two militants, a 16-year-old high school student, and a 65-year-old man and his 30-year-old daughter were killed in four separate raids, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said.
One of the militants was killed while riding a motorcycle. The teenager died while walking to school, and the father and daughter were killed when a missile struck right outside their home, witnesses said.
The Israeli military said the air attacks were in response to continued rocket fire. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said more than two dozen rockets had struck southern Israel by early Monday afternoon. One damaged a preschool building on a communal farm shortly before children were scheduled to arrive, but no one was hurt, Rosenfeld said.
Schools in the area were closed for a second day to avoid casualties, keeping tens of thousands of children from their studies. A day earlier, a rocket struck the courtyard of one of the empty schools.
Also Monday, militants fired three mortar shells into Kerem Shalom, the sole cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza through which 70 percent of all goods that enter the Palestinian territory pass. Two vehicles were hit on the Palestinian side of the crossing, but no one was injured, Israeli officials said. Operations were briefly halted.
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