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Terrorism & Security

Israeli air strikes on Gaza Strip wound 15 Palestinians

The Israeli air strike targeted smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, the army said. On Tuesday, several mortars were launched into Israel from the coastal enclave.

By Correspondent / May 26, 2010

Palestinians survey a building at an abandoned airport that was hit by an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip Wednesday.

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Israel bombed two targets in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, wounding about 15 Palestinians, after several mortars were launched into Israel Tuesday from the coastal enclave. There were no reported Israeli casualties.

The Israeli army said it targeted smuggling tunnels that run beneath the wall separating Gaza from Israel. The army said militant Islamic group Hamas used the tunnels to cross into Israel and carry out terrorist attacks

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports that the one of the strikes hit a training compound for Hamas’s military wing, Al Qassam Brigades, in Gaza's northern city of Bayt Hanun. The second strike was in southern Gaza, where Israeli F-16s launched missiles at an unused airport near Rafah. Some of the wounded reportedly sustained critical injuries. CNN, which reports 17 wounded, also reports that five of the wounded were militants.

The BBC reports that the air strikes also came after a donkey cart full of dynamite exploded near the barrier between Israel and Gaza. According to the BBC, the explosion was meant to blow a hole in the concrete divider.

A militant Palestinian group “that identifies with Al Qaeda” said it had launched the mortars into Israel Tuesday, according to Reuters. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which has called for a halt on rocket attacks on Israel. But as The Christian Science Monitor reported, Hamas is having an increasingly difficult time controlling the more radical groups in the territory, which believe that Hamas is too moderate and has “sold out” by calling for a halt to rocket fire. Israel holds Hamas responsible for the rocket fire from the Strip, even when it comes from different militant groups.

Hamas is also facing pressure on another front. The Monitor reports Hamas is suffering from a financial crisis after three years of an Israeli blockade. Hamas has not paid full salaries to its civilian and security employees in two months, and has been forced to take the unpopular move of raising taxes.

Since coming to power in 2006 elections, Hamas had until now maintained a steady cash flow. It profited from the smuggling of black-market goods through tunnels under the Gazan-Egyptian border – tunnels also used to bring in suitcases of foreign currency. It has also transferred funds through money-changers outside Gaza, but controls have tightened.

"The Egyptian authorities have recently been monitoring and cracking down on financial transactions between Egypt and Gaza, through money-changers and other avenues," says Gaza-based political analyst Mkhaimar Abusaada.

Meanwhile, activists from Europe are attempting to break the Israeli blockade and bring aid to Gaza by ship, but may not get through the Israeli military. The Israeli news website Ynet reports that an Israeli Defense Force commander called the eight ships sailing toward Gaza a “provocation.”

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