11 Palestinians, 1 Israeli killed in Mideast attacks

Violence in the Mideast continued on Monday as Israeli air strikes killed Palestinian militants and civilians in the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian rocket killed a woman in Israel.

Violence in theMideast continued on Monday as Israeli air strikes killed Palestinian militants and civiliansin the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian rocket killed a woman in Israel.

Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a car driven by militants from Islamic Jihad after it was hit in an Israeli missile strike in Jebaliya on Monday. ((Adel Hana/Associated Press))
The woman, killed by a rocket fired from Gaza into the nearby Israeli town of Sderot Monday evening, was the first Israeli to die in the latest round of Gaza fighting. At least 40 Palestinians have been killed since Tuesday, including five militants and six civilians who died in Israeli air strikes on Monday.

Islamic Jihad, a militant group that has fired numerous rockets into Israel, saidfour of itsmembers were killed in the attack near the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. All the men had been travelling in a vehicle when the missile hit.

Israel's army confirmed the air strike as part of its ramped-up military response to an increasing number of Kassam rocket attacks on southern Israel. The army said some 150 rockets have been fired in the past six days, including 13 on Monday.

In other incidents Monday, a Hamas militant was killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza and suspected weapons facilities were hit, said the Israeli army.

The armed faction of the ruling Hamas partybroadcast a radio warning on Monday, advising its members to stop using cellphones to avoid being tracked by Israeli intelligence.

The message also warned against travelling in groups or in vehicles because Israeli warplanes are "in skies all the time."

One suspected Hamas militant, apparently following orders and riding a bicycle, was injured by a missile Monday in Gaza City, said Reuters.

Gaza streets filled for funerals

Israeli police officers examine a rocket, fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, after it landed in the town of Sderot on Sunday. ((Ariel Schalit/Associated Press))
Israel's cabinet on Sunday decided to escalate its response to the Palestinian rocketattacks, which have occurredmostly in Sderot.Before Monday, theattacks caused Israeli injuries, but nodeaths.

"Hamas people are paying, and will pay, a very heavy personal price for these attacks on the residents of Sderot and nearby communities," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday in Jerusalem.

Olmert said the military would be forced to "intensify" its response in Gaza if Palestinian militants continued the attacks.

Hours after Sunday's cabinet decision, an Israeli air strike on the home of Hamas lawmaker Khalil al-Haya killed eight people, including six civilians and two of his bodyguards. Al-Haya wasn't home at the time of the strike. Witnesses said 13 people were injured.

Another air strike hit the home of a Hamas militant in Beit Lahiya, wounding him and his four children.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Gaza City Monday for the funerals of the eight people killed a day earlier. They chanted as they carried the bodies, which were wrapped in the green Hamas flag.

"You are under attack because you are strong, because you are the supporters of the resistance in Palestine," Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas told the crowd.

Calls for tougher action

Olmert, whose public support was weakened by a report that harshly criticized his handling of last year's conflict with the Lebanese-based militant group Hezbollah, is facing calls for tougher action from within his coalition government.
Palestinians carry the bodies of five of eight people killed in Sunday's Israeli missile strike on the house of a Hamas militant. ((Khalil Hamra/Associated Press))

"I don't distinguish between those who carry out the [rocket] attacks and those who give the orders. I say we have to put them all in the crosshairs," National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio on Monday.

Also speaking on Israeli Radio Monday,Public Security Minister Avi Dichter called for the assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who lives in exile in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Hardline Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to pull his small party out of the coalition unless Israel ordered a large scale operation against Hamas.

"Either Hamas is going to be dismantled, or the government is going to be dismantled," Lieberman said in a statement.

The decision by Israel's Security Cabinet to keep up attacks was aimed at the two main Islamic militant groups in Gaza— Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in early 2006.

In a statement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas— head of Hamas' rival Fatah party— has called for international pressure to stop the Israeli attacks.

With files from the Associated Press