Page last updated at 02:07 GMT, Thursday, 25 December 2008

Israeli strike kills Hamas member


Footage of rockets being fired which was allegedly recorded on 24 December

An Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza Strip has killed a member of the Islamist group Hamas, hours after rockets hit Israeli territory.

At least two other Palestinians were wounded in the attack which, Israel's military said, was aimed at Hamas rocket and mortar crews.

More than 50 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip since Hamas ended a six-month ceasefire last week.

Israel's defence chief said Hamas was to blame and would "pay a big price".

"We will not allow this situation to last," Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Israeli television on Wednesday night.

No-one was hurt in the rocket and mortar bombardment.

Hamas said it had been retaliating for the killing of three of its men by Israeli forces on Tuesday.

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and appealed for calm and "an urgent easing of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip".

Conflicting accounts

Israel said two crossings in Gaza that were due to re-open on Wednesday would remain closed because of the attacks.

A man in Gaza City looks at a hole in a wall hit accidentally by a militant rocket
A man in Gaza City looks at a hole in a wall hit accidentally by a militant rocket
According to the Israelis, 30 rockets and 30 mortars have been fired since Tuesday night alone.

One landed close to a children's playground but did not result in injuries.

However there are reports of injuries in Gaza, where some of the rockets fell short of their target.

There are also conflicting accounts over whether the three men who died last night were shot by the Israeli army or were killed when a bomb they were planting blew up.

Hamas blamed Israel for the end of the ceasefire on Friday, saying it had not respected its terms, including the lifting of the blockade under which little more than humanitarian aid has been allowed in.

The Israeli government said it had begun a staged easing of the blockade, but this was halted when Hamas failed to fulfil agreed conditions, including the ending of all rocket fire and halting weapons smuggling.

Earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on a visit to Cairo that Egypt would press for the truce to be renewed.

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