3 killed as Violence Escalates on Gaza Border


Despite a pledged cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel, strikes resumed on both sides of the Gaza border on Saturday, killing at least two Palestinian men and a 6-year-old boy in Gaza, and wounding an Israeli man in Sderot, officials said.

Signaling the seriousness of the renewed fighting, the chief of the Israel Defense Forces called an urgent meeting of senior military officials during the Sabbath to “determine the next course of action,” according to a military spokeswoman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed by both the military chief and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and told them “to do what needs to be done to protect Israel’s population,” according to a senior aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

On Saturday afternoon, the armed wing of Hamas, known as the Qassam Brigades, promised to continue firing rockets in response to the Israeli airstrikes. “If the last round of confrontation this week was not enough to deter the occupation,” it said in a statement, “we are ready to break its arrogance, stop its crimes and respond to its aggression.” But a few hours later, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported that a new Hamas cease-fire would begin Saturday night.

The renewed fighting comes just after the fifth anniversary of Hamas’s taking of full control of the Gaza Strip, and amid an internal struggle for leadership of the party. Until last week, Hamas had largely adhered to an informal cease-fire for more than a year, though other militant Palestinian factions had frequently fired rockets into southern Israel. This latest flare-up began Monday with the killing of an Israeli construction worker building a fence along the border with Egypt.

The military spokeswoman said more than 20 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Saturday, bringing the total for the week to 150. The Israeli Air Force, meanwhile attacked several sites and individuals suspected of terrorist activity in northern and southern Gaza overnight and through the day Saturday.

Palestinian officials and residents said that Osama Ali, 42, was killed Saturday afternoon and 10 others wounded in an Israeli airstrike targeting a motorbike in Gaza City. Witnesses said the man on the bike escaped unharmed, but the blast hit an apartment building, sending bricks onto the street, hitting Mr. Ali and the others.

Earlier, Palestinian officials said, a separate Israeli strike killed Khaled al-Buri, who was affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees, a group loyal to Hamas that claimed responsibility for firing rockets and missiles into Israel in recent days.

And Saturday morning, witnesses said, an Israeli artillery shell killed Ali al-Shawaf, 6, and wounded his father in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis. “The boy and his father were sitting on the street outside a soccer court when the shells landed,” said Ahmed Arafat, 20, a resident of the Abassan neighborhood, where the shelling took place.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich of the Israeli military said on Twitter that the boy had died in an explosion of Palestinian ordnance.

Jodi Rudoren reported from Tel Aviv, and Fares Akram from Gaza.

NY Times