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Deadly Violence Flares on Israel-Gaza Border

Smoke rises from an explosion following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, March 10, 2012.
Smoke rises from an explosion following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, March 10, 2012.

There has been a flare-up of violence on Israel’s border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, leaving 14 Palestinians, most of them militants, dead and sending Israelis scurrying to bomb shelters.

Ambulances raced through Gaza as Israeli aircraft targeted Palestinian militants, who fired more than 90 rockets across the border at Israel. Israeli army video showed direct hits on several rocket squads. The military says about 25 rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Violence erupted on Friday when Israel assassinated Zohair al-Qaisi, the leader of a militant Palestinian group called the Popular Resistance Committees. His car exploded when it was hit in an Israeli air strike. Israel said al-Qaisi planned the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier five years ago and was planning an imminent cross-border attack from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, said Israel violated an informal cease-fire.

He described the assassination as a “despicable crime” and warned that Israel would pay a heavy price.

Israeli border communities were hit hard by Palestinian rockets. This agricultural worker from Thailand was an eyewitness. “I feel boom. I feel boom [in] my room. I listen, I listen, boom," said the worker.

The Israeli army ordered residents into bomb shelters. Chava Gad spoke to Israeli television from a shelter in the town of Sderot.

She said the family had planned a hike and picnic to mark the Jewish holiday of Purim, but now everyone was forced to stay indoors.

The fighting ended a long period of relative calm, but despite mutual threats, both Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas that rules Gaza signaled that they want to avoid an escalation. Egypt is trying to broker a cease-fire.

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