Israeli-Hamas tit-for-tat attacks kill 4, wound 65

April 10, 2011 - 0:0

GAZA (AP) -- Israeli aircraft pounded targets in Gaza on Saturday and Hamas resistance fighters fired back with missiles in an escalation of violence after two years of relative calm.

At least four Hamas fighters were reported killed in Saturday's Israeli bombardment. In all, 18 Gazans have been killed and more than 65 wounded in Israeli strikes since Hamas attacked an Israeli school bus with an anti-tank rocket Thursday. The bus attack seriously wounded a 16-year-old boy and injured the driver.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the bus attack crossed a red line and that Israel would strike back hard — in an apparent attempt to restore the deterrence that had been created by the Gaza war in the winter of 200-2009.
Hamas leaders, meanwhile, said Saturday they wouldn’t hold back if Israeli strikes continue. “Hamas will not stand idle in front of this escalation,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told a news conference. “We have exercised a limited response so far, but we warn the occupation against continuing with their crimes.”
On Saturday, Gaza resistance fighters fired 17 longer-range Grad missiles and seven mortar shells into Israel in the biggest single-day attack since the Gaza war, Israeli police said.
Several missiles fell in open land near the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Beersheba, while seven were intercepted by Israel’s new missile shield, Iron Dome. A mortar shell hit a local government building in a small community, causing some damage. There were no reports of injuries.
Iron Dome, a new missile shield first activated earlier this week, is the first system worldwide to knock down missiles at such altitude and trajectory.
In Gaza, meanwhile, an Israeli airstrike struck a car near Rafah in southern Gaza early Saturday, killing three Hamas fighters. Hamas said one of its top commanders, 29-year-old Tayser Abu Snima, and two of his assistants were killed. The Israeli military said Abu Snima had been involved in attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Later, Hamas said a tank shell killed another fighter near the Jabalya neighborhood in Gaza. The Israeli military said it was not aware of a strike involving a tank shell.
Overall, the Palestinian death toll since Thursday includes 11 resistance fighters, a Hamas policeman and six civilians.
Photo: Palestinian relatives gather around the body of a Hamas commander, Tayser Abu Snima, 29, at the morgue of Al Najar hospital following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday. (AP photo)