Gaza-Israel flar-up dampends truce prospects

December 25th, 2008 - 3:10 am ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv, Dec 25 (DPA) A Hamas militant was killed by an Israeli airstrike after Palestinian militants showered southern Israel with rockets Wednesday, dampening prospects of a renewed ceasefire between the two sides.By Wednesday evening, more than 70 rockets and mortar shells were launched from Gaza, causing no injuries but damage to homes and widespread panic in the Israeli town of Sderot and elsewhere.

Israel responded in the early evening with an airstrike in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas militant who had just fired a number of mortar shells at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel, an Israeli military spokesman and hospital officials in the southern Gaza town of Rafah said. Two other Hamas gunmen were wounded.

Following the rocket attacks, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak reversed a decision to allow essential aid into the salient.

An Israeli defence ministry spokesman said a truck convoy with basic food products and medical supplies from international non-governmental organizations, which had been scheduled to enter Gaza Wednesday via Israel would not be allowed in, because of the rocket and mortar fire

Hamas said the barrage was to avenge the deaths Tuesday night of three more Hamas men whom Israel killed as they were planting a bomb on the border fence between northern Gaza and Israel.

It’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, along with those of the Islamic Jihad and Fatah factions, claimed responsibility for the rockets and mortars.

“We will … put new thousands of Zionists into the firing range if the occupation’s stupid acts increase,” a statement by the al-Qassam Brigades said, threatening to use wider-range rockets if Israel intensified its military responses.

Each side has blamed the other for the latest escalation, which comes in wake of the expiration Friday morning of a six month truce between Israel and the Gaza militant groups.

“The deterioration in the south is the sole responsibility of Hamas … which has torpedoed the quiet,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

“Our position is clear. Israel will respond to quiet with quiet, and respond to attacks with measures designed to protect our people,” he said.

Hamas lawmaker Mushier al-Masri said Hamas’ position was that “the Israeli occupation was behind ending the lull.”

Since the ceasefire ended at 6:00 a.m. Friday morning, militants have fired over 140 rockets and mortars, and Israel has responded with airstrikes on rocket-launching squads.

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