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Israeli air strikes kill 12 in Gaza

Twelve Palestinian fighters were killed and at least 20 people wounded in a series of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

Updated: Mar 10, 2012, 16:46 PM IST

Gaza City: Twelve
Palestinian fighters were killed and at least 20 people
wounded in a series of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip,
Palestinian medics said on Saturday.

The Israeli military said the air force launched 13
attacks on a range of targets, including a militant leader.

The Israeli raids came as Palestinians fired dozens of
rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel starting
yesterday morning, injuring four people, one of them
seriously, Israeli military sources said.

One of the retaliatory Israeli air strikes killed the head
of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zohair al-Qaisi, and
fellow member Mahmud Hanani, the ultra-hardline militant group

The PRC threatened reprisals for Qaisi`s death, and around
45 rockets and shells were subsequently fired on southern

The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad,
said that the Israeli air strikes also killed 10 of its

"Aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing facilities
and two rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, a
weapons manufacturing facility in the central Gaza Strip and a
terror activity site in the southern Gaza Strip," the Israeli
army said in a statement this morning.

"The targeting is in direct response to the rocket fire at
Israeli communities in southern Israel," it said.

The statement said that Israel`s Iron Dome missile defence
system intercepted 10 Grad rockets fired at the southern
Israeli towns of Beersheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon, which have a
combined population of more than half a million people.

"Aircraft targeted a terrorist in the central Gaza Strip
and six additional terrorist squads who were in the final
stages of preparing to fire rockets at Israel from separate
locations in the northern and the central Gaza Strip," it

The PRC and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed
offshoot of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas`s Fatah
movement, issued statements claiming to have fired rockets
into Israel yesterday.

The official Palestinian WAFA news agency quoted a
statement by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority
condemning the Israeli retaliation, saying it had created a
"negative environment" that would "escalate the circle of
violence in the region."

The Israeli military said Qaisi "was among the leaders who
planned, funded and directed" a deadly cross-border attack
into southern Israel from Egypt`s Sinai Peninsula last August.

In that attack, gunmen carried out a coordinated series of
shooting ambushes on buses and cars on Route 12, which runs
along the Egyptian border, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of
the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat.

The shootings took place over several hours, leaving eight
dead and more than 25 wounded.

The army said today that it had once again closed Route 12
to traffic, "in light of situation assessments and security

A military statement issued after the last night`s killing
of Qaisi said he was also implicated in a 2008 attack in which
two Israeli civilians were killed.

The statement added that both the dead men were
"responsible for planning a combined terror attack that was to
take place via Sinai in the coming days."