Israeli aircraft killed a Palestinian militant and a teenager in the Gaza Strip as rockets from the Hamas-controlled territory hit Israel in the third day of violence.
About 60 rockets and mortar shells have struck southern Israel since the fighting started with an attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border on June 18. Nine Palestinians and one Israeli have died.
The Israeli army said one of the Palestinians killed today was an Islamic militant who was behind the border attack. An accomplice was severely wounded in the strike, the army said. The second death was a 14-year-old boy whose father was severely wounded in an Israeli strike, said Gaza emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmeya.
The bloodshed comes as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi claimed victory in Egypt’s presidential election, the first since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year.
“There is a link between the heightened tensions between Gaza and Israel and what looks to be the drift of Egypt to Islamist rule,” said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. “This would be a strategic change and we can expect a much more tense southern border than we have seen for many years.”
Israeli leaders including Defense Minister Ehud Barak have voiced concerns about worsening security on the border with Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state more than three decades ago. They have also cited links between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, an Islamic movement that controls Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union and the U.S.
‘Won’t Keep Quiet’
The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, sent text messages to reporters in Gaza claiming responsibility for the first time since April 2011 for the firing of rockets and mortar shells. “We won’t keep quiet in response to Israeli assaults,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.
“The ongoing escalation in Gaza is just an exchange of mutual messages between Israel and Hamas,” said Samir Abu Mdallallah, a political scientist at Gaza’s al-Azhar University. “Israel wants to tell Hamas that the situation won’t change even if the Muslim Brotherhood rules Egypt, and Hamas sends a message to Israel saying that it is still the strongest armed Palestinian group that can fight Israel anytime.”
Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State, urged restraint in a statement late yesterday and condemned the rocket fire from Gaza “which has dramatically and dangerously escalated in the past day.”