At least 11 Palestinians have been killed and more than 80 injured in a series of Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad are vowing revenge for the string of attacks. A joint statement issued in Beirut by Hamas and Islamic Jihad called on all Palestinians to join together in a coordinated response to what was termed the Zionist aggression against Palestinians.
At least eight members of Hamas were killed in the air strikes which began in the pre-dawn hours Monday and continued until well after dark.
One of the attacks late Monday on the densely populated Nusseirat refugee camp killed three Palestinians. In another, Israeli troops killed two men they said were trying to infiltrate into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The military said it found explosive devices strapped to their bodies. The other attacks targeted Hamas members and buildings that Israel says were being used to make weapons including homemade rockets.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament on Monday that there would be no let up in the attack on militant Palestinian groups. He called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the greatest obstacle to peace and said that Israel is determined to bring about his removal from the political arena.
The Palestinian Authority declared a state of emergency Monday night, citing supply shortages in Gaza hospitals.
The latest violence cast more doubts about the likelihood of any progress in the American-backed international peace plan known as the road map.
Officials at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed speculation that the head of the American team monitoring implementation of the road map is not planning to return to the region anytime soon. John Wolf left for the United States a month ago saying that he planned to be back in 10 days.
The Palestinian bombing of a U.S. convoy in Gaza last week that killed three American security guards fueled further speculation that Washington would scale back its involvement in the peace process.