Israeli airstrikes leave 13 dead in Gaza

Three dozen Palestinians have died in past week

May 21, 2007|By Henry Chu | Henry Chu,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- Seven men from a single family were reported killed yesterday in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza, bringing to 13 the death toll in such attacks through the day and overnight after Israel warned it would intensify military operations in the coastal territory.

In the past week, about three dozen Palestinians - militants and civilians - have died in Israeli missile strikes ordered in response to rockets fired daily into southern Israel by Hamas. Those rockets have wounded about two dozen Israelis.

Last night, an Israeli missile struck the Gaza City home of senior Hamas lawmaker Khalil Haya, who was not there at the time, residents said. The missile slammed into a sitting room where young men from his clan had gathered, killing seven of them and also a visitor, according to hospital officials.

Capt. Noa Meir of the Israeli military said the intended target was not Haya but a cell of five Hamas militants about whom there was "specific information," a phrase implying that they were preparing to mount an assault of some kind. Security sources said the cell included a man who had participated in rocket, mortar and shooting attacks on Israel and Israeli forces.

Hamas denied that any of the victims were members of the fundamentalist Islamic group and accused Israel of moving beyond militants to hit at political figures. A Hamas spokesman called for revenge attacks.

The airstrike followed a meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Cabinet to discuss an escalation in retaliation against Hamas for the Kassam rockets raining down on the Israeli town of Sederot. Beside the attack on Haya's home, three predawn airstrikes yesterday destroyed what the Israeli military said were weapons manufacturing and storage facilities belonging to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militia. A fourth strike blew up a car, killing a Hamas fighter and two civilian passengers, Palestinian sources said. Hospital officials said a 15-year-old boy was killed by an Israeli tank shell.

Early today, two more airstrikes were reported in Gaza. One hit a factory, killing a Hamas fighter, the militant group's radio station reported.

Henry Chu writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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