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Errant rocket kills two girls in Gaza

December 27, 2008|Associated Press

GAZA CITY — A crude rocket fired by Palestinian militants Friday fell short of its target in Israel, striking a house in the northern Gaza Strip and killing two schoolgirls.

The attack came as Israel sent mixed signals as to how it might respond to continuing Palestinian rocket fire. Israeli defense officials say politicians have approved a large-scale incursion into the territory once rainy conditions clear.

But Israel also appeared to respond to international pressure against an invasion, opening the Gaza border Friday to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid.

None of Gaza's militant factions acknowledged responsibility for the deadly attack on the house in Beit Lahiya. Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moiaya Hassanain said the 5-year-old and 12-year-old girls who died were cousins. Three other children were wounded, he said.

The girls were the first Palestinian civilians inadvertently killed by militants since their truce with Israel began to unravel six weeks ago. They were killed by rocket fire, family members and medics said.

Israel's crossings with Gaza have largely been shut since the militant Hamas group seized control of the coastal strip in June 2007, with only the barest essentials allowed in since a June 19 truce.

On Thursday, however, Israel's Defense Ministry said it had agreed to open its cargo crossings into Gaza to avoid a humanitarian crisis. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the decision followed consultations with defense officials and calls from the international community, suggesting that Israel might be open to international pressure to resume the truce.

A total of 106 trucks carried medicine, fuel, cooking gas and other vital goods into Gaza, including a small donation from Egypt, the military said.

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