Gaza: Three killed in Israeli airstike

August 25th, 2009 | Posted in Palestine
    Tuesday, August 24th, AFP by Adel Zaanoun.


    Photo: Zoriah (c). Damaged wall along the Gaza / Egypt border.

GAZA CITY — Three Palestinian brothers were killed and nine other people were wounded on Tuesday when Israel bombed smuggling tunnels between the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and Egypt, medics said.

Rescue services were digging through the rubble to try to find another man who was reported missing after the first Israeli air strike against the tunnels in more than two weeks.

Mansur, Wael and Ibrahim al-Batniji, aged 30, 26 and 24, were working inside the tunnels when Israeli warplanes struck two tunnels in the early morning hours near the border town of Rafah.

The Israeli military said it launched the raid in response to mortar fire from the Palestinian territory late on Monday that wounded one soldier.

The mortar fire was in turn a response to an incident in which a Palestinian was killed and another wounded by Israeli fire when they approached the border fence with Israel on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip on Monday.

The border between the Hamas-ruled Gaza and Israel has been largely quiet since January 18 ceasefires by the Islamists and the Jewish state ended a 22-day Israeli war on the Palestinian territory.

The ceasefires have largely held despite violations by both sides.

More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the war that Israel launched on December 27 in response to militant fire from Gaza.

The hundreds of tunnels that snake under the ground between Gaza and Egypt are used to bring in food, fuel and weapons into the impoverished Palestinian territory that has been under a punishing blockade for more than two years.

Aside from the Israeli raids, the people working in the tunnels face the regular danger of collapse in the hastily-dug structures, where dozens of men have died this year alone.

Hamas, considered a terror group by Israel and the West, seized power in the tiny territory sandwiched between Israel and Egypt in June 2007, ousting forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Since then Israel and Egypt have kept the aid-dependant coastal enclave of 1.5 million people sealed to all but essential humanitarian supplies.

Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005, but still controls the territory’s borders and airspace. Egypt shares the strip’s only border crossing that bypasses Israel.

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