Rockets hit Israel after fighting flares in Gaza

December 9, 2011 - 8:26 AM
Mideast Israel Palestinians

Palestinian mourners react during the funeral of Issam al-Batch, 45, in Gaza City, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011. An Israeli airstrike on a car near a crowded park in downtown Gaza City killed two suspected militants on Thursday, the second such attack this week after a period of relative calm along the Israeli-Gaza border. (AP Photo / Hatem Moussa)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian militants launched three rockets into Israel on Friday, the Israeli military said, hours after a Palestinian civilian was killed in an airstrike against a Hamas target in Gaza.

The rockets landed in Israeli territory but caused no casualties, the military said. Air-raid sirens and bomb shelters have helped keep civilian casualties low in southern Israel over years of rocket fire from Gaza.

The latest exchange followed several days of violence in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Earlier Friday, Israel carried out multiple airstrikes against Hamas facilities. One damaged a house next to a targeted site, killing a 42-year-old civilian and wounding several members of his family, according to Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia.

Other houses were damaged by fire or shrapnel and a total of 25 people were wounded, Abu Salmia said.

Israel's military released a statement Friday expressing "regret" for harm to bystanders but blaming Hamas for choosing "to operate while embedded within a civilian population, using them as a human shield to protect their actions."

The military said the civilians were harmed not directly by the airstrikes but by the explosion of rockets stored at the sites that were hit.

On Wednesday, an Israeli airstrike hit a group of militants in Gaza, killing one and wounding two others. Israel said it targeted militant squads preparing to fire rockets into southern Israel.

And on Thursday, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car near a crowded park in Gaza City, killing two militants, including one from Hamas' military wing, and wounding five bystanders. Israel says the militants were planning to infiltrate Israel to carry out attacks.

The strikes Thursday touched off rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel.

In Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned what he called an "unjustified and serious escalation by the Zionist enemy."

Speaking Friday at a Gaza City mosque, he said Egypt was helping to mediate an end to the latest round of fighting.