Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly
March 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Thousands of mourners on Wednesday buried eight Palestinians, including three children and an old man, who were killed in two Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday in eastern Gaza city, calling for taking revenge on Israel.

The mourners carried the bodies on their shoulders from Shiffa Hospital in the city and marched along Gaza city's main street. They prayed on the bodies at al-Omari Mosque, then headed to Gaza cemetery to bury the victims. Militants fired into the air vowing for revenge.

On Tuesday afternoon, four Palestinians, including three children and an old man were killed when Israeli army tanks fired four tank shells at a house and a playground in eastern Gaza City. On Tuesday night, four Islamic Jihad militants were also killed in another Israeli war jet attack in eastern Gaza city.

Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, told Xinhua during the funeral that his movement is still sticking to the right of resistance and the right of responding to "the Israeli occupation's crimes," adding that "the Israeli aggression would never break our people's determination to end the occupation."

"I call on all the Palestinian factions to strongly respond to these crimes and I call on the international community to take the responsibility towards what is happening in the Gaza Strip and stop immediately the Israeli aggression," said al-Batsh with anger.

Abu Ahmed, spokesman for Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement's armed wing, Saraya al-Quds, told reporters that his group will certainly respond to the ongoing Israeli military escalation on the Gaza Strip, adding that "the factions of resistance won't stay silent for the crimes of the occupation against civilians."

Earlier on Wednesday, the group claimed responsibility for firing two long-range Grad rockets from Gaza at southern Israeli cities. Israel Radio reported that 26 Israelis in the city of Beer Sheba were injured after a rocket landed in the suburb of the city, adding that the casualties had been taken to the hospital.

On the same day, Israeli war jets struck empty agricultural areas in eastern Gaza city, no injuries were reported. A Palestinian youth was seriously injured when an Israeli tank fired several tank shells at predawn when a group of militants tried to fire rockets into Israel.

The deposed government of Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, declared a mourning day to express sadness for the death of eight Palestinians on Tuesday during the Israeli army ground and air strikes. Hamas called on the residents to join the funeral of the eight dead Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Hamas government in Gaza said in a press statement that Prime Minister Ismail Haneya had tried to avoid a larger Israeli army operation in the Gaza Strip. Haneya also talked with the chief of Islamic Jihad in Damascus on the issue, according to the statement.

The Gaza Strip has witnessed over the past three days significant deterioration of the security situation and a mounting wave of violence, when al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas armed wing, claimed responsibility on Saturday for launching dozens of mortar shells into southern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to carry on intensive strikes against Gaza militants for a certain period of time. According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu said during a session of the Knesset (parliament) that the Israeli army would firmly act against Gaza militants and defend the Israeli citizens.

The Israeli cabinet for security and political affairs held on Wednesday a special meeting to discuss the ongoing escalation of violence.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said Wednesday that the Israeli military escalation in the coastal enclave was motivated politically. "The systematic escalation aims to achieve political goals but will not terrify Hamas or the Palestinian people," Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told Xinhua.

Abu Zuhri's remarks were in response to Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom who said that the army may have to unleash a new large-scale military operation in Gaza in response to increased rocket attacks by militant groups there.

Shalom told Israel Radio that the new offensive should topple the Hamas regime by targeting leaders and fighters of militant groups in Gaza rather than tunnels and open areas. However, Netanyahu expressed sorrow for the death of four civilians, including three teenagers in Gaza on Tuesday.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Prime Minister- designate Salam Fayyad condemned the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. They called for an international intervention "to commit Israel to halt violence and protect the Palestinian civilians."


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