Israeli strike kills 2 in Gaza after call for calm

AFP , Sunday 27 Mar 2011

Air strikes hit an alleged terrorist cell attempting to fire a rocket a day after Hamas said it will escalate or decrease the violence in measure to Israel’s actions

Gaza
Palestinian in funeral in Jabalya refugee camp northern Gaza Strip ( Photo: AP)

An Israeli air strike killed two people in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, medics said, a day after the Palestinian resistance declared they were committed to calming tensions if Israel reciprocated.

"Two Palestinians were killed and another wounded Sunday morning in an Israeli air raid on targets east of Jabaliya," said Adham Abu Senmya, spokesman for the Gaza emergency services.

An army spokeswoman confirmed the raid, saying "an air force plane attacked on Sunday morning a terrorist cell that was preparing to fire a rocket at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip."

A witness said the men were in a car, but did not elaborate.

The army also confirmed Israel would begin deploying on Sunday its multi-million-dollar "Iron Dome" missile defence system in the south in the wake of rocket attacks from Gaza.

The system is designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells fired from between four and 70 kilometres.

On Saturday, after a week of bloody clashes with Israel that killed eight Palestinians, the resistance led by the Hamas rulers of Gaza met and declared they wanted to restore calm in the coastal enclave.

Hamas official, Ismail Radwan, told reporters after a meeting with Islamic Jihad and other factions that "we are committed to calm as long as the occupation [Israel] commits to it."

There was no immediate reaction from the Israeli government, but the cabinet is due to meet later Sunday morning.

On Friday, however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to act with "great force," in response to rocket and mortar fire.

Netanyahu said Israel had been "subjected to bouts of terror and rocket attacks" and that "we stand ready to act with great force and great determination to put a stop to it."

Following Saturday's meeting, Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader, told AFP that "everybody confirmed that they respect the national consensus by calming things with the Zionist enemy."

But he said this "depends on the nature of Israeli behaviour, and we insist on the need to respond immediately to each escalation by the occupiers."

And Osama Al-Haj Ahmed, a Popular Front leader, said "the factions confirmed their commitment to national consensus in order not to give the aggressors any pretext" for attacking.

Just before the Gaza meeting started, the army said, a rocket was fired from Gaza on the Israel town of Sderot, causing no casualties or damage.

And Gazan combatants fired two rockets into Israel on Friday night, with one damaging a house where Israeli media said eight sleeping people were unharmed.

Visiting the site, Israel's southern front commander Major General Tal Russo said it appeared Hamas was unable to impose calm on Gaza.

"There is currently anarchy on the other side," the Ynet website quoted him as saying. "Hamas is finding it difficult to turn the clock back."

Defence Minister Ehud Barak toured the Gaza border on Friday with army Chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, saying calm seemed to be returning to the area.

He also claimed that if the rocket attacks stopped, Israel would also halt its strikes into Gaza.

"We don't intend to let the terror organisations again disturb the order, but we will do all we need to to return the [military] activity to the border line itself," Barak said.

Israel's leaders have appeared reluctant to be dragged into another bloody war with Hamas, especially as they lack international support for any new offensive on Gaza.

Reacting to persistent attacks from Gaza, Israel launched a three-week assault on the strip over New Years 2009, in which some 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis died.

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