GAZA, March 19 (Nidal al-Mughrabi/Reuters & JMCC) - Israeli aircraft struck at least seven targets in the Gaza Strip
on Friday a day after a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave killed a Thai worker in Israel
security officials and witnesses said.
Twelve people were wounded in the series of Israeli strikes, which targeted
smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt, a metal foundry near Gaza City
and the territory's non-operating airport.
According to eyewitness reports, four missiles hit near the destroyed
Gaza airport. As crowds gathered to inspect the damage, a fifth missile
hit the area, resulting in multiple casualties.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed several sites had been targeted, including two tunnels dug near the Israeli border fence and a weapons manufacturing site, and added direct hits were identified.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom had said on Thursday Israel would make a strong response to what was the first deadly rocket fire
from Hamas-ruled Gaza at Israel in more than a year.
Israel also sent a letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is due to visit Israel at the weekend, and the U.N. Security Council.
Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev urged Ban to call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in 2006. Hamas has demanded Israel free hundreds of the thousands of militants in its jails in exchange for the soldier.
A previously unknown group, Ansar al-Sunna, believed to share the hardline ideology of al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire at Israel, as well as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a wing of the mainstream Fatah
Hamas Islamists, who took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, had been urging other militant groups not to strike Israel, voicing concern about possible Israeli retaliation.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have carried out sporadic rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel since the end of a three-week Gaza war
in January 2009, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed, usually without causing any casualties.
The Israeli military spokesman said more than 330 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the war. 'We will continue to act against anyone who executes terror attacks against Israel,' he said, reading a prepared statement.
Israel has responded to rocket fire from Gaza since a war last year, but air strikes are often tempered to avoid casualties as a signal to Hamas Israel holds it responsible while aware it was not behind the rocket fire, and to avert the appearance of disrupting US-backed diplomacy in the region.
The latest air strikes took place the day of a meeting of Quartet Middle East power mediators in Moscow and just ahead of a planned visit by US envoy George Mitchell, who is seeking to relaunch moribund peace talks in the region.