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Death toll rises as Israel continues Gaza air strikes

Reuters/Ahmed Zakot

Israeli air strikes and tank fire killed at least four people in Gaza on Saturday, bringing the number of deaths in cross-border violence to 17 since Thursday. The victims include several civilians. It is the deadliest outbreak of violence in the region since the December 2008 war.

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According to medics, Israeli forces killed a local Hamas commander and two of his bodyguards in the southern Gaza town of Rafah in a targeted strike on a vehicle. Another Hamas fighter was killed in an air strike, while an Israeli tank killed a Palestinian in Gaza City.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Israel’s military also said it targeted a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border and a truck carrying ammunition.

Around 30 rockets and mortar rounds were fired into the south of Israel overnight. There were no fatalities. Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility.

Hamas said on Saturday it would attack more Israeli targets if Israel does not halt its air strikes.

“If the Israeli escalation continues, amid international silence and complicity, the reactions by resistance factions will broaden,” spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters news agency.

The latest violence broke out after Hamas fired a rocket at an Israeli school bus on Thursday, an attack that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “crossed the line”.

Hamas says it was responding to earlier Israeli assaults on its members.

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