Israeli airstrikes on Gaza continue overnight 20Nov10 November 21, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  20 November 2010

A second Israeli attack targeted the southern Gaza Strip overnight, with military officials confirming airstrikes on a smuggling tunnel and local sources saying air and artillery strikes also targeted the Gaza airport early Saturday morning.

Witnesses said shells hit the Yasser Arafat airport – destroyed during the Second Intifada in 2000 – and artillery strikes followed, causing further damage to the bombed-out structure. Officials in the south said the strikes were preceded by two hits to smuggling tunnels in the Yebna and Nahda areas of Rafah.

An Israeli military spokesman said the Israeli airforce targeted two tunnel sites in southern Gaza, as part of what has been an ongoing assault said to be a response to projectile fire from militant groups in the area. He said forces identified a direct hit, though no injuries were reported by Gaza medical officials.

The spokesman said strikes did not target the Arafat airfield, but noted flares were used in foggy conditions. He said he was not aware of any artillery strikes on the area.

Following the strikes, the militant wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s General Command unit said their fighters fired four mortar shells toward the Israeli military base at Kissufim, east of Khan Younis. The brigades said in a statement that the attack came in retaliation for the assassination of two brothers in Gaza on Wednesday.

On Friday afternoon, six Gaza residents were injured in three air strikes on the coastal enclave, medics said.

The Israeli military confirmed the strikes in a statement, and said the attacks targeted “terror sites” in the Strip, adding that “direct hits were identified.”

The strikes targeted sites in the southern and central Gaza Strip. Four were injured in a strike on Deir Al-Balah, where shelling targeted a two-storey home. The injured, who included two women, were transferred to hospital, Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiyya said.

Two attacks targeted Khan Younis in southern Gaza. One strike on the southern area injured a man and a child, who were transferred to the Nasser Hospital, Abu Salmiyya said.

No injuries were reported from the third strike, which hit a farmers’ field.

The army said the strikes were in response to projectiles launched from the Strip into southern Israel. A military spokesman said two strikes hit central Gaza and targeted “terror tunnels.” He could not specify the target of the third strike, which he said hit southern Gaza.

According to the military, ten mortar shells and one grad rocket had been fired since Thursday, causing damage. No injuries were reported.

A long-range rocket fired on Friday from Gaza into Israel exploded near the Negev desert town of Ofakim without causing any casualties, the army said. A military spokesman said the rocket was “the first of its kind for several months.”

Grad-type rockets have a range of up to 40 kilometers, about twice the distance of the homemade Qassam rockets usually used by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The attack came hours after local police said Israeli warplanes bombed the shoreline south of Gaza City, where a loud explosion was heard in Gaza just after 1 a.m.

On Thursday, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for firing three mortar shells towards an Israeli intelligence headquarters along the Gaza border.

The An-Nasser Salah Ad-Din Brigades said in a statement it launched three shells at the facility behind the Kerem Shalom military base east of Rafah along the border between Israel and Gaza in the south.

A military spokeswoman said the shells landed in the Eshkol Regional Council.

The operation came in response to the assassination of two brothers who were members of the radical Army of Islam group, the PRC statement said. An Israeli drone targeted a car carrying the brothers, Islam and Muhammad Yassin, on Wednesday. Israel claimed they were plotting to attack Israeli citizens in Egypt’s Sinai.

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