Israel airstrikes target Gaza, killing at least 12

Posted at 7:35 AM, Mar 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-10 06:18:19-05

By Talal Abu Rahma, CNN

(CNN) – A series of Israeli airstrikes targeted suspected militants across Gaza overnight, killing 12 Palestinians and injuring 16, Palestinian medical officials said early Saturday.

In what appeared to be the initial attack, an Israeli airstrike killed two men who were traveling in a police vehicle in Gaza City, the officials said.

One of the men was a Hamas military leader who was deported to Gaza about five years ago after being freed from an Israeli prison, according to the officials.

The other man is considered a leader in the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group that has said it recently launched rockets toward Israel and fired mortars from inside Gaza.

A second Israeli attack struck an apparent rocket-launching site in Gaza, killing three other Palestinians.

And a third airstrike hit a house in Beit Lahia, killing two Palestinians and wounding others, medical and Palestinian officials said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the first two airstrikes. The forces said they are on high alert, with aircraft patrolling the region and targeting suspected militants.

The airstrikes are a response to attacks to southern Israeli communities, including at least 45 rockets launched from Gaza in the past 24 hours, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said early Saturday. At least four people were injured in those attacks.

The men targeted are “part of the terror infrastructure used to execute attacks via the Sinai Peninsula, and the Israel-Egypt border, while violating Egyptian sovereignty,” Israeli forces said in a statement.

The suspected leader of Popular Resistance Committees helped orchestrate an August attack that left 40 people injured, coordinated rocket attacks against Israel and transferred funds from Hezbollah to militant groups in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces said.

Following the death of its leader, the Popular Resistance Committees vowed a “seismic response” and said Israel “has opened the doors to hell and the continuous revenge … will be by the size of this heinous crime”

Ismail Radwan, a spokesman for the ruling Hamas-controlled government in Gaza, condemned the attack.

CNN’s Kevin Flower contributed to this report

Copyright 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.