Violence hits Israel-Gaza Strip region, 4 killed



Jerusalem: At least four Palestinians were killed in renewed violence when Israeli fighter jets pounded the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip amid unabated rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian militants.

The attacks came at a time when Qatar's Emir is visiting the shunned coastal Strip in an unprecedented political recognition for its Islamic rulers.

"Multiple Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed four people and injured eight since late Tuesday", medics in Gaza said.

Israeli warplanes struck a target in Rafah early today, killing Muhammad al-Sheikh, 32, a member of the Popular Resistance Committee's military wing, the Nasser Saladin Brigades.

Israel's Army said it was targeting a launching squad which moments earlier had fired a rocket at southern Israel.

At midnight, an air strike on Beit Lahiya in Gaza's north killed Ismail al-Tille, a member of Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades, and injured three others, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an news agency.

Another overnight strike in an area northwest of Beit Lahiya killed Loai Abed al-Hakeen Abu Jarad, 24, and Yousef Abu Jalhoum, al-Qidra said.

Israel's Army said it targeted a squad in the northern Gaza Strip "during its final preparations to fire rockets towards southern Israel".

Israel Air Force strikes targeting Palestinian rocket-launching squads however could not stem the flow of rockets fired by Palestinian militants and an Israeli army spokesperson told PTI that 72 rockets had been fired on Israel till afternoon today.

Hamas's armed wing, the Al-Qassam brigades, took responsibility today for both a barrage of rockets unleashed against Israel since Tuesday night and a bomb that critically injured an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officer along the Gaza border yesterday.

It also said that on Tuesday it "detonated a roadside bomb near Israeli infantry soldiers east of Khanyounis city.

Of the projectiles fired on Israel's southern areas, 22 landed in the Eshkol region while 21 landed in the Lachish region, according to the Israel Police.

An additional 10 rockets landed in the South on Wednesday morning.

Five people were injured in the rocket fire and an equal number of houses damaged, Israel Radio reported.

The airstrikes followed a historic visit by the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in an unprecedented political recognition for the Islamist Hamas regime shunned by the West and not recognised by most of the world.

Thousands lined the streets in Gaza to welcome the Qatari emir, whose the first head of state to visit the Hamas-run enclave since 1999.

The Qatari leader promised that his oil-rich country would invest hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects in Gaza to help revive the economy in the cash strapped coastal Strip.

PTI