At least 11 Palestinians were killed and one Israeli was wounded on Thursday as Israeli airstrikes targeted Palestinian militants in Gaza, and those militants who fired rockets at southern Israel. Among the dead were four Palestinian children who were reportedly struck by a missile while playing football. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from Jerusalem.
Israeli air strikes hit multiple targets in the Gaza Strip, but Palestinian militants continued firing rockets at southern Israel, targeting the town of Sderot.
The stepped up Israeli attacks followed the death of an Israeli man late Wednesday. Israeli government spokesman David Baker says Israel will not tolerate the continued rocket attacks.
"The current situation where Israeli towns and cities are hit with daily barrages is untenable for Israel and one we will not accept," he said.
Speaking in Tokyo where he is on a state visit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the rocket attacks could affect contacts with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who met with Mr. Olmert in Tokyo, said the rocket attacks need to stop. She blamed Hamas militants for starting the problem by seizing power in Gaza last year, when they ousted Mr. Abbas's Fatah forces from the territory.
Rice is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next week in an effort to get Israelis and Palestinians to make some progress in peace talks.
Speaking in Jerusalem on Thursday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki criticized the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, but he also called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza.
"These stupid missiles being launched, you know they are firecrackers, but in the end they have killed Israeli civilians," said al-Malki. "We condemn this clearly, openly and straightforwardly. But at the same time we also condemn all these Israeli incursions into Gaza, killing Palestinians civilians, destroying their houses and preventing them from having a normal life. This situation should end, but first of all the siege, the blockade should be lifted."
Al-Malki also expressed growing pessimism about the peace talks with Israel. He says there has been no progress since last November's Annapolis Mideast peace conference, and Palestinians are coming to believe the talks will fail.