Israeli Airstrike Against Rocket Sites in Gaza Strip Kills 3 Palestinian Children

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 30, 2007

JERUSALEM, Aug. 29 -- Three Palestinian children were killed Wednesday in an Israeli airstrike against rocket launch sites in the northern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian health officials identified the dead as cousins Yahiya and Mahmoud Abu Ghazallah, 10 and 12 years old respectively, and another cousin, Sara, 12, who died of her injuries hours after the late afternoon attack.

An Israeli military spokeswoman, who was not authorized to be named, said aircraft fired on several launch sites in western Beit Hanoun, a town of about 30,000 people near the boundary with Israel.

The spokeswoman said the military spotted "teenagers" handling the launchers -- usually homemade tripods that serve as stands for the rockets -- before the strike. She condemned "the use these terrorist organizations make of teenagers."

A member of the Abu Ghazallah family who witnessed the airstrike said a rocket launcher was near the area where the children were playing. The relative, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal, said the launcher belonged to Islamic Jihad, an armed movement responsible for much of the rocket fire into Israel.

"I hold the Islamic Jihad responsible for the killing of these children," the relative said.

The number of rocket attacks from Gaza declined following the violent takeover of the strip in June by the radical Islamic group Hamas, but it has spiked again in recent weeks.

Israeli military officials said approximately 100 of the crude rockets have been fired from the strip in the past month, 92 of them landing inside Israel.

The recent strikes have damaged businesses and houses and caused a number of injuries, most of them minor. At least one rocket landed Wednesday inside Israel but did not cause any damage.

The airstrike came as Israeli towns near the Gaza boundary are preparing for the new school year, which is scheduled to begin next month.

Some of them, particularly the town of Sderot, are frequent targets of the rocket-launch teams. Local officials are considering postponing the start of school until all classrooms are fortified against rocket strikes.

Special correspondent Islam Abdelkareem in Gaza contributed to this report.

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