Middle East

Israel-Gaza violence causes international concern

An Israeli woman in Beersheba looks at a car that was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip on Saturday
Image caption About 100 rockets have been fired into Israel since Thursday, causing one death and dozens of injuries

International concern is growing over a fresh wave of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

Israel has carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip, while militants have been firing rockets into Israel.

The trigger was a series of attacks in Israel on Thursday when eight civilians died. Five Egyptian policemen were killed as Israel pursued the gunmen.

The Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - the UN, US, EU and Russia - has called for restraint.

Fresh casualties

Since the Thursday attacks, Palestinian militants have fired more than 100 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing one man in Beersheba and injuring dozens of other people. Israeli sources said two children were slightly injured when rockets hit the town of Ofakim.

Egypt also reported rocket fire hitting its territory on Sunday.

Israeli air strikes over the past few days have killed at least 15 people in the Gaza Strip, and injured dozens more.

A strike just north of Gaza City on Sunday reportedly left a 12-year-old boy seriously wounded.

Image caption Air strikes have killed at least 15 and wounded dozens in the Gaza Strip

According to the AFP news agency, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), a faction in Gaza that is loyal to Hamas but sometimes operates separately, said it had carried out the Beersheba attacks, while the armed wing of Hamas said it had fired four Grad rockets at Ofakim.

Hamas has broken a four-month-old truce by joining other militant groups in Gaza in launching the rocket attacks.

Reports say the Israeli army has arrested dozens of Palestinians with links to Hamas in the West Bank.

Emergency meeting

The 22-member Arab League held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the growing tensions and issued a strong criticism of Israel.

It called on the international community to "pressure the Israeli occupation authorities to put an immediate end to this assault" and urged the UN to "assume its responsibilities and take quick steps to halt this brutal assault".

Thursday's attacks in southern Israel started when gunmen opened fire on a bus near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat. Eight Israelis and seven gunmen were killed.

The incident has also led to a diplomatic dispute between Israel and Egypt. Egypt says it is considering recalling its ambassador.

Israel has said it "regrets" over the deaths of the five security personnel, while thousands of Egyptians have been rallying outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa - who is also running for the Egyptian presidency - told the BBC that the deaths of the Egyptians were "unacceptable".

"The killing of soldiers is something that they cannot explain. This is a situation that has triggered the anger, the frustration and the rejection of everybody in Egypt."

Mr Moussa said Israel had to make amends and "ensure that such a situation will not occur again".