Northern, Southern Israel Hit With Rockets

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Communities in northern Israel are on high alert after several rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel Thursday. The Israeli military quickly responded with artillery fire into Lebanon. At the same time, there were more rockets fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip — as the Israeli military's offensive continues with air strikes and new ground fighting reported.


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Ari Shapiro. We've been reporting for the last couple of weeks on war in Gaza. Now, violence on another one of Israel's borders. Several rockets from Lebanon landed in northern Israel today. The Israeli military quickly fired back. Lebanon's prime minister condemned the attacks on Israel and the retaliation. At the same time, violence in the Gaza Strip continues. Diplomats are in Cairo trying to secure a cease-fire. Egypt is hosting separate talks today with representatives from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas. NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.

ERIC WESTERVELT: Israeli police say two civilians were lightly wounded after several rockets landed in the northern town of Nahariya. One rocket hit a retirement home. The Israeli military says it immediately responded with an artillery barrage to where the rockets were launched from. No Lebanese group has yet claimed responsibility. It's not yet clear if it was a barrage from a Palestinian faction in Lebanon or from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group Israel fought a month-long war with in the summer of 2006. The Associated Press quoted a Lebanese official saying the government is committed to a truce.

Nonetheless, the Israeli military and civilians in the north remain on high alert. And people were warned to stay near shelters in case the barrage was not a onetime show of force. Meantime, in the south, Israel bombed several targets overnight and today in Gaza. Israeli warplanes again attacked smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt, tunnels that are a key subject in any cease-fire deal. Israel wants guarantees Hamas won't rearm through its tunnel network. The U.N. says more than 5,000 Palestinians have fled the southern border area near the tunnels and sought shelter at U.N. schools. And in Khan Yunis, an Israeli air strike destroyed the house of a senior Hamas commander suspected of involvement in the 2006 cross-border abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The fighting erupted again quickly after a brief calm yesterday afternoon. A three-hour Israeli cease-fire prompted Gaza civilians who had been hunkered down indoors for days to rush out to try to stock up on clean water, food, and blankets. Thirty-three-year-old Ali Nazli(ph) stood in line at a Gaza City market getting food for his wife and two kids. Nazli said he's skeptical the three-hour truce will lead to anything more lasting.

Mr. ALI NAZLI: (Through Translator) The Israelis have been massacring civilians in Gaza. So now Israel wants to make their ugly face look pretty. That's why they gave us this little cease-fire.

WESTERVELT: United Nations officials say the Israeli pledge of a three-hour lull every other day is not sufficient to distribute goods, assess need, and retrieve wounded civilians from combat areas. Gaza City civilians say they are struggling to adapt to the chronic shortages of water, cooking gas, and food staples. Jihad al-Sharafa(ph), who's 56 years old and unemployed, says whole neighborhoods are now bartering for goods.

Mr. JIHAD AL-SHARAFA: (Through Translator) Some people have water wells in their houses so they'll distribute water to the neighbors in exchange for some food. The situation is very difficult. One of my friends has no cooking gas, and I have two cooking gas cylinders left. So I am now sending one of them to him, and he'll send to me some bread.

WESTERVELT: There was more rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel overnight and this morning. Police say there were no serious injuries. On a windy hilltop near the Israeli town of Sderot, 20-year-old yeshiva student Nadav Zabari(ph) stood and watched the plumes of smoke from air strikes and ground fighting. Zabari held a prayer book and said he's been coming most every day to watch the war, pray for the soldiers, and show support for his government's attack into Gaza. He said after years of rocket fire from the territory, it was time to hit back hard.

Mr. NADAV ZABARI (Israeli Yeshiva Student): People get hit. And now in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva. Like, we're strong. We can answer to whatever they're doing to us. And I think we finally do it to avoid them as much as we can to hit us.

WESTERVELT: Israel's Security Cabinet met Wednesday to discuss the five-day-old ground attack. Officials would not comment in public on the next step. But Israeli TV reported that the Cabinet has decided to press ahead with the military campaign. And in the occupied West Bank, sporadic protests continue against Israel's Gaza offensive. Israeli soldiers today shot and killed a Palestinian man after he tried to set fire to a gas station at a Jewish settlement. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, southern Israel.

SHAPIRO: News assistant Ahmed Abu Hamda in Gaza City contributed to that report. Israel continues to bar reporters from entering the Gaza Strip.

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