Shaky truce threatened by Israeli airstrike 24Aug11 August 25, 2011

Aljazeera  -  24 August 2011

An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed one Palestinian and wounded two others - actions which Hamas said violated their two-day-old truce with the state.

Wednesday’s missile attack, which targeted a vehicle in Rafah near the border with Egypt, raised fears of a fresh descent into violence scarcely 48 hours after factions had agreed to end rocket fire on southern Israel, on condition that the Israeli Air Force also stopped its raids.

The armed branch of the Islamic Jihad movement, Al Quds Brigade, said the dead man was Ismael al-Ismar, one of its leaders. Ismar, 34, died when the missile ploughed into his car, witnesses and members of Al Quds Brigade said.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the strike, saying it had targeted “an activist linked to Islamic Jihad who was implicated in attempted terrorist actions in the Sinai”.

According to the Israeli military, Ismar had “operated with terror elements in the Gaza Strip which have recently made several attempts to execute terror attacks in the Sinai, on the Israel-Egypt border”.

The airstrike prompted a flurry of mortar fire into the Eshkol region of southern Israel, which flanks the southern sector of the Israel-Gaza border, Israeli police said, in an attack claimed by the Al Quds Brigade.

The group said it had fired six shells towards the Kissufim crossing, which is located in the Eshkol region, in response to Ismar’s killing.

Immediately afterwards, Israel targeted “two terrorists who had fired rockets at Israel”, the army said, in a raid which Palestinian medics said moderately wounded two members of Islamic Jihad near Deir al-Balah.

The flare-up prompted Israel’s Home Front Command to order all residents living within rocket-range of the border to stay “within 15 seconds” of the nearest bomb shelter, media reports said.

Shaky truce

Gaza’s Hamas government accused Israel of violating the unwritten truce with its latest air strikes and called for UN intervention.

A statement issued by Hamas read: “Such aggressive behaviour confirms that Israel has no true intention of maintaining the truce and insists on escalating the situation. We call upon the international community and the United Nations in particular to pressure Israel to stop its aggression against our people.”

An Egyptian-brokered halt to Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip had appeared to be holding on Tuesday, with the Israeli military saying calm had prevailed along the border overnight.

The latest cycle of violence erupted on Thursday, when gunmen attacked cars and buses on a desert road near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, killing eight in an attack blamed on the Popular Resistance Committees.

In the following days, Israeli air strikes killed 15 Gazans, and armed factions in Gaza lobbed more than 100 rockets and mortar shells across the border, killing one man.

During the hunt for Thursday’s attackers, Israeli troops shot dead five Egyptian policemen – causing a diplomatic rift between the two countries.

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