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Palestinian Rockets Land Near UN Official


An Israeli factory worker was critically wounded Tuesday by rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. The rockets landed near a U.N. team visiting southern Israel, led by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The rocket fire took place as Israel launched a new offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing a senior Hamas militant, but also an elderly Palestinian woman.

Israel launched a major military operation in Gaza City early Tuesday, surrounding the house of senior Hamas militant Ayman Hassanin, who was later killed in heavy fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli forces. Tuesday's operation was the first Israeli incursion in Gaza City in several months, and came after two Hamas militants were killed by an Israeli airstrike late Monday.

A short while later the armed wing of Hamas launched a barrage of Qassam rockets at the southern Israeli city of Sderot. The rockets landed near a factory critically wounding one Israeli civilian. They also landed near a U.N. fact-finding team lead by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who is on a five-day mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. says the rockets landed about 200 meters from the U.N. officials who were parked nearby, but caused no damage or injuries to the team. He says in her meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials Arbour has been calling on both sides to show restraint.

"She made it clear that both sides have to respect international humanitarian law," said Mr. Gunness. "She made it clear to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, that he must take all necessary steps to bring those firing Qassam rockets into civilian targets into Israel - that they should be brought under control -- and these should stop immediately -- and that he must exercise his authority to bring that about. On the Israeli side she was clear that, because as she put it, Israel was operating in an atmosphere of virtual impunity -- there have to be investigations - it must become clear - through an independent and authoritative investigation what happened in Beit Hanoun. "

Two weeks ago nineteen members of an extended Palestinian family were killed in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun after Israeli forces mistakenly shelled an apartment complex while targeting Palestinian militants.

During her visit to Sderot on Tuesday several workers in the area where the rockets landed tried to storm the car carrying Arbour but they were pushed back by police. Many residents have fled the city, and the issue of continuing rocket fire against Sderot has become a political issue in Israel, with critics saying Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government has failed to protect the lives and property of Israeli civilians.

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