Israeli airstrikes, rocket attacks continue on Sderot


Tel Aviv : More rocket attacks by radical Palestinian groups were reported late Tuesday on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, as were more Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.

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Israeli media said an Israeli woman was in a state of shock after a rocket attack on the town. Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades – the military arm of the Fatah movement – claimed responsibility for the latest attacks.

Three people were meanwhile reported wounded in the latest Israeli airstrikes during the evening.

Israeli aircraft had already fired rockets at two buildings in the central Gaza Strip before dawn, pushing ahead with an aerial campaign against Palestinian militant factions behind a week of intense rocket fire from the Strip.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the buildings in the towns of Nusseirat and al-Bureij were used by Hamas to store weapons and by the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) as an "operation room" for directing the launching of rockets against Israel.

The airstrikes came after a Gaza-made Qassam rocket killed a 35-year-old Israeli woman and moderately injured a man when it hit a car in Sderot Monday evening.

The woman's death was the first since the militant factions began their rocket bombardment May 14. According to Palestinian observers, the militants began the escalation to restore unity and end severe internal clashes between the ruling Hamas and the rival Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Sderot is located about five kilometres north-east of the Gaza Strip and has borne the brunt of more than 170 rockets launched at southern Israel during the past week.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was in the town at the time of the deadly attack for a visit with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Solana condemned the spiral of violence on the streets of Gaza and cross-border attacks from Israel, demanding a "political dialogue."

Meanwhile Perez called on the EU to impose a strict boycott against the Palestinians because of the rocket attacks.

No help should be given to the Palestinian government as long as the rockets are being fired at Israel, Perez said after meeting Solana.

Angry residents of Sderot took to the streets in the evening, throwing stones at the municipality building, burning tyres and shouting insults at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel Radio reported.

Olmert, who also visited the town for the second time in several days, told residents: "There is no immediate solution to the Qassams and there is no absolute solution either."

Leaders of Hamas and Fatah factions meanwhile postponed a meeting due to be held in Gaza. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haneya of Hamas were scheduled to attend.

Israel meanwhile sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants during the Jewish holiday of Shavu'ot, which starts Tuesday evening.

No Palestinian workers would be allowed through checkpoints into Israel for the duration of the holiday, the military said.