Gaza missiles and Israeli operations continue
Five Palestinian fighters were killed and an Israeli soldier was badly wounded Thursday in central Gaza, about a mile from the border with Israel, the Israeli Army and Palestinian medics said.
In the afternoon, Palestinian militants fired three rockets toward southern Israel. One hit about 40 yards from a school in downtown Sderot, and 12 students were treated for shock, the Israeli police said.
At least two other Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded Wednesday night, when the operation began, and about 20 Palestinians were wounded Thursday, including a Reuters television journalist and a 7-year-old boy. Another Palestinian fighter was critically wounded in the combat, which the Israeli Army described as a routine raid to suppress rocket and mortar fire into Israel.
The casualties occurred in a week when Israel has stepped up day-to-day operations against Palestinian militants, especially Islamic Jihad, which has fired most of the rockets from Gaza. The Israeli soldier was severely injured when the Palestinians fired an antitank rocket. A helicopter took him to a hospital in Beersheba, and his family was notified, the army said. An army news release said that seven Palestinian gunmen had been killed in the operation. But Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, director of emergency services in Gaza, said that only five had died. [complete article]
Rice welcomes ‘good step’ from Israel on settlements
Israel took a “good step” when it dropped plans for a new Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday, adding it would have undercut new peace talks.
“I think it’s a good step,” Rice said in an exclusive interview with AFP after Israel’s housing ministry abandoned the plans for the Atarot area in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.
“I don’t know the calculations that went into it, but obviously it’s helpful that you don’t have that decision to contend with,” she said, noting such moves “undermine confidence.”
Rice did not say whether or not she had talked to Israeli government officials after Housing Minister Zeev Boim mentioned the plans on Wednesday, but suggested that they took heed of previous criticism over similar moves. [complete article]