JERUSALEM/GAZA: At least 17 Palestinians, six of them civilians, have been killed in the Israeli pounding of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip since Thursday in the bloodiest escalation since the two sides agreed to an informal ceasefire more than two years ago.
Israel has retaliated strongly to an anti-tank missile strike by Gaza-based militants that hit a school bus injuring two persons, including a 16-year-old boy.
Israel Air Forces have struck from land and air across the coastal strip.
The IAF resumed airstrikes on Gaza early Saturday morning, responding to a barrage of mortar and rocket fire from the other side, targeting a private car in the Tel As-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in the southern part of the strip, and several other sites across the coastal enclave, killing three and injuring dozens.
The deadliest strike hit the car of Hamas field commanders, killing Al-Qassam Brigades leader Taysir Abu Sneima and his assistant Muhammad Awaja and injuring critically a third militant identified as Shadi Az-Zatmah, medics in Gaza said. Palestinian medical sources said the dead body of a third Hamas militant, identified as Ahmad Nabil Zaytouniyya, was evacuated to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya along with another man seriously injured in an 8:30 a.m. strike Saturday.
The early morning victims brought the death toll in the coastal enclave to 17 since Thursday, with more than 60 injuries, they said.
Six of the dead were identified as civilians.
Spokesman of the Gaza Strip’s higher committee of ambulance and emergency service, Mr Adham Abu Salmiya, told Palestinian news agency Ma’an that two dead bodies and a critically injured man were transferred to the Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.
In the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes targeted a car parked in the Ad-Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City causing damage to several vehicles.
No injuries have been reported in the blast.
A third strike targeted a Hamas training base in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip and another hit the Al-Umour neighbourhood in Khan Younis.
No injuries were reported in either of the hits.
The border in Rafah with Egypt was also hit apparently targeting smuggling tunnels.