Israel launched two air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing six Palestinians, including three senior Islamic Jihad fighters it long sought for firing rockets and orchestrating other attacks.Israel’s attacks, aimed at tightening its military pressure on the Hamas-ruled territory it wants to isolate, came three days after an offensive in which 12 Palestinians were killed in the coastal territory.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed two aerial attacks in Gaza, including one that targeted a car of Gaza fighters he said were involved in plotting a suicide bombing and in past attacks against Israel. Palestinian security sources and witnesses said the three fighters killed in the first strike in the town of Khan Younis were commanders of the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza.
The fighters were identified as Raed and Zeyad Ghannam and Mohammad Rai. Israel and Islamic Jihad said the three were long wanted by Tel Aviv for rocket firings and other attacks dating back to before Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
The second Israeli air strike targeted a metal workshop in Maghazi refugee camp, killing three Palestinians, including the owner and wounding two other people, medics said.
Camp residents told Reuters the workshop’s owner had been a supporter of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fateh movement, whose forces in Gaza were routed by Islamist Hamas in fighting two weeks ago. Israel has bombed metal foundries in the past, alleging they produce rockets fired at Israel, but witnesses said Saturday’s attack was the first carried out during working hours rather than late at night when they were unstaffed.
Hamas rejects international force
Hamas rejected Abbas’ call for the deployment of international troops in Gaza, vowing to attack them like other “occupation forces”.
Abbas dismissed a Hamas-led unity government and formed his own administration in the occupied West Bank after Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza on June 14.
Abbas told French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a visit to Paris on Friday he wanted international peacekeepers to deploy in Gaza to ensure free elections can be held there.
“An international force is not acceptable to us,” said Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-led government dismissed by Abbas. “We are under [Israeli] occupation and we do not need more forces that will put more pressure on the Palestinian people.” Hamas’ armed wing,Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â theÂ Â Â Â IzzeddineÂ Al Qassam Brigades, threatened to attack international troops. “We will not allow any foreign forces to set foot in the Gaza Strip and we will deal with them as occupation forces,” Qassam Brigades said.
Qassam Brigades said it believed Abbas only supported the deployment of international troops to undercut the group’s control over Gaza.
The United States and Israel have sought to isolate the Hamas-ruled territory while bolstering Abbas’ emergency Cabinet in the West Bank.
Israel, the European Union and the United Nations have said they were open to consider an international force for Gaza.
But Israeli officials and Western diplomats doubt major powers will agree to send forces into Gaza with a mandate to act against fighters, as demanded by Israel.
Israel had long resisted Palestinian calls for international peacekeepers in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, saying their deployment would interfere with Israeli security measures.