Death toll increases in Gaza-southern Israel clashes
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- The Palestinian death toll from clashes between Israel and Gaza Strip militants rose Sunday from 14 people to 18, including a Palestinian schoolboy killed by an Israeli airstrike targeting militants, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Rockets and mortars continued to pound southern Israeli cities throughout the day, with one landing near an empty school and another destroying a parked car in the city of Beersheva.
No additional Israeli injuries were reported Sunday, though schools remained closed in some southern cities and many residents stayed inside bomb shelters in case of attack. Four Israelis have been injured in the clashes.
The latest round of violence began Friday after Israel killed a leader of the militant group Popular Resistance Committees, claiming he was planning to launch an attack.
Gaza-based militants responded by firing more than 125 projectiles at southern Israel since Friday night. About 30 of the rockets were destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome missile-interception system, but on Sunday a handful of rockets appear to have evaded the system, landing in populated areas.
As Egyptian mediators attempted to broker a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would order the military to respond harshly to the rocket attacks. Israeli air strikes during the past two days have killed 16 militants, some apparently caught in the act of trying to fire rockets, according to video released by Israel Defense Forces. Also killed were a 55-year-old man and the schoolboy, who was between 12 and 14 years old, according to different accounts.
“We have exacted from them a very high price,” Netanyahu said. “Naturally, we will act as necessary.”
Leaders of Hamas, which controls Gaza, condemned Israel’s strikes and called for a cease-fire.
“Our priority as a government now is to stop the aggression,’’ said Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a statement.
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: Palestinian women react during the funeral of a schoolboy, Ayoub Assalya, killed in an Israeli airstrike in Jabaliya Refugee Camp, Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Credit: AP / Hatem Moussa