Renewed flare-up of violence around Gaza
AFP - 1 hour 55 minutes ago
GAZA CITY (AFP) - - Violence flared again around Gaza on Friday, wounding a woman in Israel and two Palestinian militants, as UN food delivery to 750,000 people ground to a halt in the besieged coastal strip.
Several rockets fired by Gaza militants hit southern Israel and one woman in the frequently targeted city of Sderot was hospitalised with shrapnel wounds, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
At least three rockets hit Ashkelon without causing any casualties, emergency services said.
Hamas claimed it had targeted the port city with five Grads -- military-grade missiles that have a longer range than the makeshift weapons usually fired into southern Israel.
The Islamist movement which rules the Gaza Strip said it also fired eight rockets at Sderot.
One rocket slammed into a kibbutz near the border, causing some damage, Rosenfeld said as radio urged residents to remain close to shelters.
In Gaza, two militants were wounded in an Israeli air strike, medics and witnesses said.
Violence has rocked a fragile five-month-old truce in recent days and prompted Israel to tighten the blockade of Gaza which it says is aimed at making militants end rocket and mortar attacks.
Israel usually allows a limited quantity of vital goods into Gaza but it completely sealed off the territory on November 5.
The UN Works and Relief Agency says the closure has forced it to suspend its distribution of food rations to half of Gaza's 1.5 million population.
"We have no food," said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness. "Our warehouses are empty."
Defence Minister Ehud Barak decided on Thursday night to maintain the closure of the Gaza crossings after rockets were fired at Israel.
Israel also cut off European Union-funded fuel supplies to Gaza's sole power plant on Thursday, prompting it to shut down.
Humanitarian agencies warned that the closure would lead to a further deterioration of the already precarious situation.
"It means children, mothers, elderly people, among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the Middle East, are not going to get UN assistance," Gunness told AFP.
The European Union stressed that international law requires the provision of essential services to civilians.
"I call on Israel to reopen the crossings for humanitarian and commercial flows, in particular food and medicines," said EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
"Facilitation of fuel deliveries for the Gaza power plant should be resumed immediately," she said, also urging all parties to exercise restraint.
Israeli authorities initially said 30 truckloads of supplies would be allowed into Gaza on Thursday, but then turned the vehicles back.
Israel had been expected to ease its embargo after a six-month truce went into effect on June 19, but it argues that attacks by militants have made this impossible.
The Israeli government generally responds to such attacks by sealing off the territory, cutting off the already limited basic supplies it allows in under the blockade it imposed after Hamas seized control in June 2007.
On Wednesday, four Gaza gunmen were killed in an exchange of fire Israel said started after militants tried to place a bomb near the border fence, and a flare-up last week left seven Palestinians dead and led to the closure of the crossing points.
Israel has nevertheless indicated it would like to extend the ceasefire beyond its scheduled expiry on December 19, but suggested it was also ready to get tough.
"We are not yet at the point of no return. When that is the case, we won't hesitate to react," public radio quoted an official in the prime minister's office as saying.
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An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas at Palestinian youths throwing stones during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, November 11. Violence flared again around Gaza on Friday, wounding a woman in Israel and two Palestinian militants, as UN food delivery to 750,000 people ground to a halt in the besieged coastal strip.
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