Israel wounds 7 in Gaza, hundreds return from Egypt

Israel launched an air strike on Monday against a vehicle in the central Gaza Strip, wounding seven people, three of them activists, medics said.For a second day, Israel allowed Palestinians stranded in Egypt since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza last month to return to the coastal strip travelling via the Jewish state.

An Israeli security source said more than 300 would cross on Monday, following 101 who did so on Sunday.

Israel’s military confirmed the air strike, which it said was aimed at preventing rockets from being launched at Israel from Gaza. Israel has pressed on with its attacks on targets in the coastal strip since Islamist  Hamas seized the territory.

The vehicle struck by the Israeli missile near Mughazi refugee camp exploded on impact, wounding three fighters from Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh movement and Islamic Jihad, medics and witnesses said.

Four Palestinian bystanders were treated for slight injuries, medics said.

Israeli soldiers killed two Al Aqsa members on Saturday.

Israel said they were planting explosives and preparing to launch mortars near the Gaza border fence.

An Al Aqsa spokesman said then that the thwarted attack had been meant to send a signal the group objected to the omission of a reference to “armed struggle” in the new platform of Abbas’ government, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abbas lost control of Gaza on June 14 when Hamas routed his secular Fateh forces, and responded by sacking a Hamas-led unity government, naming his own Western-backed administration.

Abbas’ government, headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad,  said  on  Friday  it had dropped the “armed struggle” phrase, triggering protests from fighters based in Gaza.

Right to resist

In an apparent response to these protests, Fayyad said on Monday that despite the platform’s wording, Palestinians still had a legitimate right to resist Israeli occupation of territories seized in a 1967 war.

“We are certainly an occupied people and resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people as an occupied people,” Fayyad told reporters in Cairo, where he is leading the Palestinian delegation to an Arab League meeting.

Under a deal reached with Egypt and Fayyad’s government, Israel has said thousands of Palestinians stranded in Egypt since the Rafah crossing was closed with Hamas’ takeover of Gaza could now return through Israeli territory.

Palestinian sources said 101 Palestinians returned to Gaza through Israeli territory on Sunday.

Hundreds more reached Gaza later in the day.

Palestinian and Egyptian sources said 305 were heading back.

The Israeli source said more Palestinians would be allowed through on Tuesday.

Hamas has criticised the deal to let the Palestinians return through Israel as a sellout to the Jewish state. It demands the immediate reopening of the Rafah crossing which would give the Islamists some control over who enters Gaza.

Western diplomats say Israel and Abbas are reluctant to relinquish control of the strategic crossing to an armed group, fearing it could be used to bring in gunmen and weapons from Egypt.

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