Israeli Airstrikes Kill 6 in Gaza; Militants Fire 30 Rockets at Israel

Israeli police engineers look at a camera as they examine the site after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip hit the city of Ashdod. Israeli airstrikes killed Palestinian civilians and militants in the Gaza Strip, March 12, 2012.
Israeli police engineers look at a camera as they examine the site after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip hit the city of Ashdod. Israeli airstrikes killed Palestinian civilians and militants in the Gaza Strip, March 12, 2012.

Israeli airstrikes killed six Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants fired more rockets into southern Israel Monday, in a fourth day of fighting that drew renewed concern from the international community.

Palestinian medics say Monday's airstrikes on Gaza killed four militants and two civilians - a man in his 60s and his daughter. The Israeli military said its aircraft hit several militant targets, including a weapons storage facility and rocket launching sites.

Gaza militants fired at least 30 rockets at southern Israel during the day, with several landing inside Israeli communities. No casualties were reported.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have killed 24 Palestinians, all but four of them militants, since the fighting erupted on Friday. The militants have fired more than 100 rockets at southern Israel, wounding several Thai agricultural workers, forcing schools to close, and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

Listen to an excerpt of the interivew with Ashdod resident Yaniv Cackon

A resident of the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, reached by telephone, said public morale is high because the community is providing activities for children, and people are following government instructions on how to protect themselves from rocket fire.

Yaniv Cackon said the Israeli government should use the "minimum force needed to keep its citizens safe," while also helping to "create a culture of peace on both sides" of the conflict.

Listen to an excerpt of the interivew with Palestinian political analyst Mahmoud Ajrami

Gaza-based political analyst Mahmoud Ajrami told VOA that Gaza is "paralyzed," with many residents too scared to go to work or move around the territory because of "around the clock" attacks by the Israeli air force and navy. He also said many Gazans believe Israel sought to escalate the conflict in order to test the capabilities of militants suspected of acquiring more powerful rockets.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern about the latest escalation in violence between Gaza and Israel, saying civilians are paying a "terrible price." In remarks to the U.N. Security Council Monday, he said rocket fire on Israeli civilians is "unacceptable," and he urged Israel to exercise "maximum restraint."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also addressed the Council, saying Washington condemns rocket attacks by Gaza "terrorists" in the strongest terms and demands immediate action to stop them.

The Quartet of Mideast peace mediators called for calm in the region. Monday's appeal by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia came in a statement released after Quartet representatives met at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called for the U.N. Security Council to take a decisive stance against what he called Israel's "brutal actions" and "systematic assassinations of Palestinian opposition activists."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Israeli military is prepared to expand its operations as much as necessary against "terrorists" who try to harm Israelis.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for most of the rocket fire. In a statement Monday, the group vowed to continue rocket attacks on Israeli cities as long as Israel refuses to stop targeting militants. Islamic Jihad also criticized efforts by some Palestinians to secure a truce with Israel through Egyptian mediators, saying those people should exert pressure on the Israeli "enemy" rather than Gaza's "resistance" fighters.

The fighting began Friday when an Israeli airstrike killed two senior Gaza militants who Israel says were planning an imminent attack. Israel says one of the militants, Zuhair al-Qaissi, plotted an attack last August in which terrorists sneaked into southern Israel from Egypt and killed eight people.

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Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin
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