Israel says its air strike killed five Gaza militants planning attack

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and witnesses claim that five Gazans killed in an air strike Saturday were preparing to launch a rocket into Israel at the time of the strike.

By , Correspondent

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    A relative of Palestinian militant Mohammed al-Asar mourns during his funeral in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, Sunday. An Israeli air strike killed five Palestinian militants, including al-Asar, in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Maleki condemned an Israeli air strike that killed five in Gaza late Saturday in one of the deadliest strikes since the 22-day Gaza incursion that began in Dec. 2008 and killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. But the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and witnesses claim the five were preparing to launch a rocket into Israel at the time of the strike.

The Palestinian Authority protests each “Israeli attack against our people,” Mr. Maleki said in a Sunday address broadcast by the Palestinian Authority-controlled Voice of Palestine radio station in the West Bank town of Ramallah. “But despite the crimes of the occupation, we maintain the will to continue the process of construction and preparation for the proclamation of the state regardless of the Israeli actions,” he said, according to the Eurasia Review.

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Palestinian hospital officials confirmed that the young men were militants, Al Jazeera reports. The Palestine Telegraph refers to them as “martyrs [who] were Palestinian resistance fighters who took a position at the nearby areas of the Israeli borders.”

IN PICTURES: Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border

Witnesses contacted by the Agence France-Presse news agency said the five belonged to one of the extemist groups that have increased attacks against Israel recently, being either former members of Hamas, which rules Gaza, Islamic Jihad, or the Committees of Popular Resistance.

IDF: Hamas 'solely responsible' for Gaza-based attacks on Israel

The IDF says that it holds Hamas “solely responsible for terror emanating from the Gaza Strip.” In its press release on the attack, the IDF says that more than 200 missiles, rockets, and mortar shells have been fired into Israeli territory this year.

The attack follows a virtual collapse earlier this month of reinvigorated US attempts to broker peace.

The Obama administration was unable to gain a settlement freeze from the Israelis as a condition to bring Palestinians to the negotiating table. As one Palestinian negotiator told the Christian Science Monitor, “We are not going back to negotiations with Israelis. It won't work. [Netanyahu] hasn't shown one iota of interest in discussing the permanent settlement.”

Peace process and the settlement issue

In a Dec. 10 address to Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that the US still views settlements as illegitimate and that a durable two-state solution should be the goal of all parties.

“We also look at our friends the Palestinians, and we remember the painful history of a people who have never had a state of their own, and we are renewed in our determination to help them finally realize their legitimate aspirations," she said. "The lack of peace and the occupation that began in 1967 continue to deprive the Palestinian people of dignity and self-determination. This is unacceptable, and, ultimately, it too is unsustainable.”

In his radio address Sunday, Maleki touted the Palestinians’ recent success in gaining independent statehood recognition from Latin American nations, such as Brazil and Argentina.

“Palestinian efforts are currently focusing on rallying recognition of their state from the largest number possible of states across the globe, in preparation for seeking recognition from the United Nations,” he said.

IN PICTURES: Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border

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