Palestinian killed in Israeli air raid on Gaza
JERUSALEM - An Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian man in Gaza on Wednesday after rocket fire from the territory prompted Israel's premier to warn he holds Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas responsible.
Two Palestinians were also wounded in the evening raid in the northern Gaza Strip, the emergency services said.
The dead man, 30-year-old Mohammed al Awour, and one of the wounded were travelling on a motorbike and were the apparent targets. A seven-year-old boy who was passing by on foot was also wounded.
The Israeli military said it had targeted "terrorists affiliated to the international jihad," its designation for Al-Qaeda inspired groups in Gaza.
Local sources also said that the two men on the bike were radical Salafist militants.
Al Awour was involved in numerous rocket attacks on southern Israel in recent years and particularly over the past month, the Israeli army said in a statement.
He belonged to an "a violent and extremist Salafist cell which attempted to organise several terrorist attacks against Israel," the army statement added.
Abbas, who swore in a new merged government for the Palestinian territories last week replacing the Hamas administration in Gaza, condemned the rocket fire which Israeli officials said hit the Eshkol region without causing any casualties or damage.
Israel had previously held Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza, regardless of who carried it out.
Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds Abbas, who heads the unity government, responsible, a spokesman said.
"Abbas is responsible and accountable for rockets that are fired at Israeli towns and cities by terrorists in the Gaza Strip," Ofir Gendelman said on Twitter.
- 'Unprovoked aggression' -
Netanyahu welcomed the deadly Israel air raid and promised that the army and the Shin Bet security service would "continue to take strong action against all those who try to attack the security of Israel's citizens."
Reacting to the rocket fire, Abbas's office said he "condemns the rocket fire and calls for honouring past agreements."
The United States criticised the rocket attack on Israeli soil but said it would still work with the new Palestinian government.
"We condemn all rocket fire from Gaza. It is unprovoked aggression against civilian targets and is totally unacceptable," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"President Abbas must do all in his power to prevent deterioration in the security situation," Psaki said, welcoming his condemnation of the attack which came from the militant Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The US does "acknowledge the reality that Hamas currently controls Gaza," the spokeswoman said.
But she noted that there were no members affiliated with Hamas in the new government, and that the US would continue to work with it.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians which had been relaunched after dogged efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry are currently suspended, after Israel withdrew from the process angered by the Palestinian deal with Hamas.
The new government of independent technocrats agreed on between Abbas's Fatah party and Hamas has said it will respect Israel and past peace agreements, and has given assurances that it renounces violence.
Hamas refuses to recognise Israel and is pledged to armed struggle against the Jewish state.
Some 200 rockets and mortar rounds fired from Gaza have hit southern Israel so far this year, the military says. On June 1, two rockets from Gaza hit Israel, prompting retaliatory air strikes.