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New Tensions Along Israel Gaza Border

Palestinian relatives react during the funeral of a Islamic Jihad militant killed in an Israeli air strike, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, March 30, 2011
Palestinian relatives react during the funeral of a Islamic Jihad militant killed in an Israeli air strike, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, March 30, 2011

Israel's border with Gaza has been the scene of rising tensions. Palestinian militants have been firing rockets at Israel, some hitting within a few kilometers of Tel Aviv. Israel has responded with air strikes and shelling, further stoking anger among the Palestinians. VOA Jerusalem correspondent Luis Ramirez went to the Israeli port city of Ashdod where some rockets have been landing.

This city on the blue Mediterranean, with its palm trees, high-rise apartments, and children riding bicycles resembles more of a resort than a war zone.

Yafa Briga is one of its residents. She hangs laundry out to dry on her balcony overlooking the sea. For her, it is impossible to live a normal life after a rocket from Gaza hit just a few meters from her apartment building a few days ago.

She says that now, the rockets have come really close. She said the explosion near her building created a big boom and shook all the windows and doors. She says she is frightened, and has not been sleeping well. She says there is much tension.

No one was killed when the rocket hit, but for residents here, a period of relative calm has been shattered.

In the past few days, militants in Gaza have stepped up their firing of rockets into Israel, and Israel has responded with airstrikes and shelling.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel wants peace, but promises retaliation if the Palestinians' attacks continue.

He said Israel is interested in calm and security, and it has no desire to escalate the situation. But he says Israel will not hesitate to use the might of the Israel Defense Forces against those who attack its citizens. He said Israel will not tolerate attacks against its civilians.

Some of the residents interviewed in Ashdod say they support military action against militants in Gaza, but few say they want a repeat of the full-scale 17-day assault that Israel carried out more than two years ago.

Schools across much of southern Israel have been closed in the face of continued rocket attacks.

Yafa's 17-year-old daughter, Tone, sits at home. She says she worries about the future.

She says things cannot continue this way. She says she lives in fear. She says but her high school studies have been interrupted because of the situation, which she said is getting worse from day to day. She says there should be peace with both sides living together, but does not think it will happen.

Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that controls the Gaza Strip, has offered a cease-fire but only if Israel stops its attacks.

Meanwhile, hardly a day has gone by when no rocket strikes are reported, and Israeli gunships have been carrying out airstrikes in Gaza, killing a number of people - both suspected militants and civilians.

Neither side appears anxious for another war, but the big question is which side will take the first step to prevent it.

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