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Israeli airstrikes kill 7 in the Gaza Strip

July 01, 2007|From the Associated Press

GAZA CITY — Israeli aircraft sent missiles hurtling down on the Gaza Strip three times Saturday, killing seven Palestinian militants and sending a clear signal that Israel would not tolerate attacks following Hamas' bloody takeover of the coastal strip.

Near the time of the second strike, militants fired two crude rockets that struck the southern Israeli town of Sderot, just over the border, the Israeli military said. No injuries were reported.

In other developments, Israel put off a planned Palestinian prisoner release, and a group allied with Hamas threatened to target the head of the emergency government set up by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after his movement, Fatah, lost control of Gaza.

Three militants from Islamic Jihad were killed in the first airstrike on a car traveling in the southern town of Khan Yunis. The army said the militants were planning a suicide bombing and had been involved in previous suicide attacks against Israel. The army also linked them to a 2004 infiltration of a military post in Gaza in which one Israeli civilian was killed.

Abu Ahmed, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, said one of the three, Ziad Ghanam, was the group's top leader in southern Gaza. Abu Ahmed vowed retaliation.

The second attack hit a weapons factory in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, killing four militants, including a father and son, from a violent offshoot of Fatah. Abu Thaer, a spokesman for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, said the father, Salah Quffa, 50, was head of the group's central Gaza operations.

Al Aqsa and Islamic Jihad gunmen broke through Gaza's fortified border in early June in a failed attempt to abduct an Israeli soldier, and Abu Thaer said Israel targeted men involved in that operation.

Aircraft fired missiles at the same place shortly after, injuring five Hamas gunmen.

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