|Smoke rises from an explosion in the northern Gaza Strip|
seen from the border with Israel, April 7, 2011
(Photo by: AP)
The Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office confirmed that IAF jets attacked three top Hamas officials in the Gaza strip, as well as a smuggling tunnel and a truck carrying ammunition.
Palestinians sources said the attack raised to 17 the number of Palestinians killed in retaliatory strikes since a rocket fired from the Hamas-ruled territory struck an Israeli school bus on Thursday seriously wounding a teenager.
Earlier on Friday the Israel Defense Forces fired on the Gaza Strip, killing nine, Palestinian sources said.
The Israeli air strikes reportedly killed four Hamas militants, one of them a commander, and five Palestinian civilians as a fresh spike in cross-border violence continued for a second day.
The IDF said it had "identified two terrorist squads from Hamas" and hit them from the ground and air.
An elderly Palestinian and two women died when their house in Khan Younis was hit and three other women were wounded, hospital sources said.
Following the IDF attack in Gaza, a barrage of rockets and mortar shells was fired at Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip, and one of the shells exploded in a chicken coop in the Eshkol Regional Council in the Negev.
Rockets were fired near the south Israel city of Ashkelon, and the Iron Dome missile defense system was successful at intercepting three of them. One rocket fell in an open area near Ashkelon, and no one was hurt.
Later in the day, two mortars were fired at a Negev town and two additional mortars exploded in open areas. Although no one was hurt, the mortars exploded near homes and chicken coops, causing damage.
On Thursday, IDF strikes in Gaza resulted in the death of five Palestinians, after Gaza militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, wounding two people.
Hamas announced Thursday that a unilateral cease-fire on the part of all militant factions in the Gaza Strip was to come into effect at 11 P.M. local time, following a meeting between the factions.
Hamas gunmen on Thursday fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, wounding two. Hamas took responsibility for the bus attack, and an Israeli analyst said it was plainly smarting from recent setbacks, including an April 2 Israel airstrike that killed three Gazans, and which it had vowed to avenge.
The United Nations and European Union on Friday voiced concern over the rising tensions and called on the sides to show restraint and bring an end to the latest round of fighting.