Israeli Fighter Planes Attack Gaza

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Fresh Israeli strikes bombed several sites in the Gaza Strip early Thursday, leaving at least 16 people injured – two in a critical condition, witnesses and Palestinian security officials said.

Separately, two other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in Beit Lahiya.

And in yet another attack, Israeli drones targeted the east of Gaza City on Wednesday, injuring at least two people.

Also on Wednesday a seven-year-old child was killed and two other people were wounded in an Israeli army explosion which also badly damaged a home in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, witnesses said.

On Thursday, Israeli F-16s as well as Apache fighter helicopters also hovered over Gaza City, where witnesses reported two intensive explosions.

The Israeli military claimed in a statement it had ‘targeted a terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip, in the same location where rockets were fired towards the Israeli city of Beersheva’.

Hamas said it has evacuated all its security posts, police stations and government buildings as it expects more Israeli attacks.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom claimed he saw Iran’s hand in the surge of ‘violence’, trying to take advantage of the turmoil sweeping the region.

‘The rocket attack was a very grave act carried out by the agents of Iran, Hamas,’ he told public radio.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a number of Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza. At least thirteen Palestinians, including children, have been injured in two separate Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, medics said.

Three Israeli bulldozers with two military vehicles invaded Al-Zeitun suburb in the east part of Gaza city.

They opened massive fire at civilian houses and agricultural lands.

Eleven Palestinians were injured after an Israeli tank shell hit the eastern part of Gaza City.

Three members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, and three children were among the injured.

Adham Abu Silmya, medical emergency spokesman, said that eleven people including three children were wounded during the Israeli attack, two of them sustaining serious injuries.

Ambulances and medical teams evacuated the victims to Al-Shifaa hospital in central Gaza city.

Local witnesses reported that the incursion hit three members of the Islamic Jihad movement when they were trying to confront the enemy by firing two mortar shells at Israeli bulldozers.

Separately, two Palestinian workers were shot and injured by Israeli gunfire as they were collecting cement particles left behind from the houses that were destroyed, in the north of the town of Beit Lahiya near the border, during the Israeli war on Gaza at the turn of 2009.

Since March 2010, more than one hundred Palestinians have been shot by Israeli soldiers while collecting construction material.

• Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated on Thursday in Nablus, in the second West Bank protest in as many days against a US veto of a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

Protesters backed President Mahmud Abbas’ decision to censure the US after it blocked a resolution at the Security Council despite the support of the other 14 members of the 15-member body.

Organised by the Teachers Syndicate, protesters in the city centre held signs saying ‘No to the shameful US veto’, ‘No to the Iranian veto of Palestinian reconciliation’, ‘Yes to reconciliation, Yes to national unity’.

They urged the PA to reach out to Hamas to form a unity government and work toward statehood.

Some factions have accused Iran of exerting influence over Hamas leaders in Gaza to prevent a unity deal.

In turn, Hamas officials accuse the PA of letting US influence stymie unity efforts.

Protesters organised a similar demonstration a day earlier in Bethlehem, where 2,000 demonstrators briefly closed a key Israeli checkpoint.

Both events come amid an unprecedented wave of uprisings in the Arab world, after pro-democracy movements brought down two autocratic regimes and sparked unrest in half a dozen other countries.

Activists in the West Bank and Gaza are threatening to take to the streets next month if the governments in the two Palestinian enclaves fail to negotiate an end to the state of political disunity that began in 2007.

Tawfiq At-Tirawi, a Fatah leader who organised the Nablus protest, said: ‘I came here today not to give a speech but to cheer: No, no to the US veto. No, no to the division. No, no to occupation. Yes to Palestinian national unity, no to the (Hamas) coup.’

But the speakers were not limited to Fatah.

The Palestine People’s Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Fida party also sent delegates echoing the same message: Palestinians should demand political unity.

They all praised the PA’s ‘decision to hold firm to Palestinian rights’, as one delegate put it.

The participating leftist factions also stressed the need for municipal elections.

Muhammad Dweikat, another organiser, told demonstrators that ‘the Palestinian cause faces difficult and dangerous times because of America’’s bias toward Israel and its settlements, alongside the changes rocking the Arab world.’

He urged the Palestinians to form a single government and homeland to end the occupation.

l Gaza students via a Facebook page in both Arabic and English, ‘End The Division’, are calling for protests across the Palestinian territories and refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon on March 15.

It has already got thousands of supporters, and is growing by the day.

One of the students who calls himself Abu Yazan says: ‘This will become a reality. It’s going to happen. We are spreading the word.

‘The first day will be hard, the next day will be better. It will grow. Division is killing us, like a cancer’.

Another student, Abu Ghassan, says: ‘For the past month, Palestinians have been spectators.

‘We’ve watched as youth take the initiative and risk their lives. What happened in Egypt needs to happen here.

‘In Egypt they wanted to end the regime. Here we want to bring the regime back to life, united in the Palestinian cause.’

Their statement on Facebook says: ‘We call on all the Palestinian factions to unite under the banner of Palestine, in order to reform the political system . . . based on the interests and aspirations of the Palestinian people in the homeland and the diaspora.’

They call for a ‘complete rebuilding of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, to include within it all the colours of the Palestinian political spectrum, including Hamas’.

‘Every Palestinian is hurt by division,’ says Abu Ghassan.

‘In the West Bank, people are concerned with settlements and the wall. Here it’s the siege.

‘I tell people I’m from Gaza, not from Palestine, and that’s very sad. We want the spirit of one people to come back.’