BREAKING NEWS: Gaza: Five Civilians Killed As Violence Flares-Up Across Border: UPDATED

8 Apr

Five Palestinian civilians have been killed and an Israeli teenager is critically injured, after the worst exchange of fire across the Gaza border in months.

Civilians Killed As Violence Spirals In Gaza Enlarge photo

The violence began when Gazan militants launched an anti tank-missile at a school bus in an apparently deliberate escalation.

Forty-five mortars and rockets were also fired into southern Israel.

For the first time Israel’s new ‘Iron Domeanti missile defence system intercepted a katyusha rocket fired out of Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

The school bus was near the end of its round near Kibbut Nahal Oz and had dropped off most of its passengers, when the anti tank missile struck.

A 16-year-old boy was the only remaining passenger on board.

He was critically wounded and had to be flown by military helicopter to hospital.

The driver sustained only minor injuries.

Alon Shuster, head of the Israeli council which flanks the Gaza border, described the attack on the bus as “barbaric.”

“This attack is an insufferable, barbaric attack on a yellow bus recognised under all international codes as a vehicle for carrying children,” he told public radio.

Israel responded quickly, and for the first time since the Gaza War more than two years ago, an Israeli helicopter gunship machine gunned a target in Gaza.

An Israeli airstrike targeted a Hamas security compound and tanks opened fire on at least two locations.

Two hamas militants have also been killed in Khan Younis in an Israeli airstrike this morning.

In Shejaiya, just across the border from the site of the bus attack, a tank shell killed a 50-year-old man and injured a dozen others including a child, according to Palestinian medics.

By midnight, a total of five Palestinian civilians had been killed and a number of others injured.

It had been relatively quiet in Gaza until three weeks ago when rocket fire increased dramatically.

At the weekend, three members of Hamas were killed when an Israeli airstrike attacked their car.

Hamas denied Israeli claims the three were planning kidnapping operations against Israeli tourists in Sinai.

Hamas leaders warned Israel they would bear the consequences for the killings and has taken responsibility for this latest attack.

NEWS UPDATE:

Israeli sappers inspect a school bus hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip near the border between southern Israel and Gaza Wednesday,
 AP – Israeli sappers inspect a school bus hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip near the border …

Mideast Conflict Slideshow:Mideast Conflict

 
By MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press Matti Friedman, Associated Press :

JERUSALEM – Israeli aircraft and ground forces struck Gaza on Friday, killing two Hamas gunmen and wounding seven other Palestinians in a surge of fighting sparked by a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli school bus the day before.

Israel’s ongoing retaliation for the bus attack has killed five militants, a policeman and a civilian. An Israeli Cabinet minister said the strikes will continue.

In Thursday’s attack, Gaza militants hit an Israeli school bus near the border with an anti-tank rocket, badly wounding the driver and a 16-year-old boy. Hamas, the Iran-backed militant group that controls Gaza, claimed responsibility for the attack. The boy remains unconscious in the intensive care ward of an Israeli hospital.

At around midnight Thursday, with Gaza rocked by explosions, Hamas announced a cease-fire. The Israeli strikes continued, hitting Hamas facilities and smuggling tunnels.

An Israeli airstrike Friday morning near the town of Khan Yunis killed two Hamas gunmen and wounded a third, according to Hamas. Gaza’s Health Ministry said three civilians were wounded.

Palestinian rescue services reported that three other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli tank fire in a separate incident in southern Gaza. It was unclear if they were armed men or bystanders. Electricity lines and transformers were damaged, causing power blackouts in some parts of the territory, according to Jamal Dardsawi, a spokesman for Gaza’s Electric Distribution Company.

In Israel, studies at some schools near Gaza were canceled Friday because of concerns for the students’ safety.

Matan Vilnai, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of the home front, told Army Radio that Israel was engaged in a “war of attrition.”

“We are acting as we see fit so that this type of fire will not continue, and so that the people behind the fire will regret it,” Vilnai said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned the bus attack and expressed concern over civilian casualties in Israel’s strikes in Gaza. He called for “de-escalation and calm to prevent any further bloodshed.”

The new round of fighting saw a potentially significant strategic breakthrough.

After years of development by an Israeli defense contractor, the Israeli military activated a new cutting-edge missile-defense system for the first time Thursday. The Iron Dome system scored a direct hit on an incoming Palestinian rocket aimed at an Israeli city, shooting it down, Israel said.

Thousands of rockets from Gaza have hit Israeli towns and cities since 2001. Israel’s attempts to stop the rockets have included military incursions — including a three-week assault than began in late 2008 _

______

Associated Press Writer Ibrahim Barzak contributed reporting from Gaza City, Gaza Strip

Israeli strike kills two Hamas men in Gaza – Hamas 

Israeli strike kills 2 Hamas militants in Gaza: medics

Israel pounds Gaza, kills 4 after missile hits bus

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