GAZA STRIP (RushPRnews) 01/29/09-Israeli warplanes have carried out more airstrikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip after militants fired two rockets into southern Israel.
Palestinian witnesses say Israeli aircraft struck the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis Thursday, wounding six Palestinians, including a man and several school children.
In other airstrikes since Wednesday, Israel has attacked what it calls a weapons factory and smuggling tunnels linking Gaza with Egypt.
Gaza militants have fired two rockets into southern Israel since Wednesday – the first such attacks since Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel declared unilateral cease-fires on January 18. The rockets did not cause casualties.
Fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has escalated in recent days as U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell makes his first official visit to the region. He meets Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank but has no plans to talk to Hamas.
After meeting Israeli officials in Jerusalem Wednesday, Mitchell said Washington is committed to Israel’s security and what he called Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate threats.
Mitchell also said there should be an end to arms smuggling by Gaza militants and a re-opening of Gaza’s border crossings based on a 2005 agreement.
The agreement called for Mr. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority to operate Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt alongside European Union observers tasked with preventing smuggling.
The deal broke down after Hamas took control of Gaza from Mr. Abbas’ forces in 2007, prompting the EU observers to leave. Egypt and Israel have since closed their crossings with Gaza to regular traffic but have made exceptions for humanitarian purposes.
Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told the Associated Press that Hamas wants to be a part of the international community and has no interest to escalate the crisis in Gaza or challenge the world, as he put it.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Mitchell Wednesday that Israel will not permanently re-open its borders with Gaza until Hamas frees an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in 2006.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters