Israel hits Palestinian rocket units in Gaza

Airstrikes kill at least six militants

Islamic Jihad vows to avenge official's death

December 19, 2007|By Rushdi Abu Alouf and Ken Ellingwood | Rushdi Abu Alouf and Ken Ellingwood,Los Angeles Times

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israel carried out more airstrikes yesterday against Palestinian rocket squads based in the Gaza Strip, leaving at least six militants dead, a day after killing Islamic Jihad's military chief.

Israeli air operations have killed at least 11 militants since Monday evening. Most belonged to Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for dozens of cross-border rocket attacks into southern Israel in recent months.

The group vowed to avenge the death Monday night of Majid al-Harazin, the head of Islamic Jihad's military arm in the Gaza Strip. Mourners at his funeral in Gaza City yesterday fired shots into the air and shouted calls for vengeance.

But Israeli officials said they would continue targeting Gaza-based Palestinian fighters, especially ranking members, in an effort to quell daily salvos of crude Kassam rockets and mortars that have terrified residents in Israeli border towns such as Sederot. Gaza militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets and mortars at Israel since January, most of them since Hamas took power.

"The fact that those terrorists have to hide makes it very difficult for them to plan and execute launching Kassams and reduces, to a certain extent, the numbers launched," Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio.

Despite the intensified air campaign, Palestinian militants managed to lob several more projectiles at southern Israel yesterday, causing damage to a chicken coop at a kibbutz. No injuries were reported.

Four Islamic Jihad militants died early yesterday during an Israeli missile strike in the northern Gaza Strip, an area frequently used as a launch pad for rockets aimed at Sderot.

Two Hamas members died later in a similar strike on a Hamas-run police station in the town of Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has been in sole control of Gaza since its forces vanquished those from the rival Fatah movement last June. Israel holds Hamas responsible for the persistent rocket attacks, though most are claimed by Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Rushdi Abu Alouf and Ken Ellingwood write for the Los Angeles Times.

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