04/02/2010, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Israeli raid in Gaza injures three children as Jerusalem prepare for Easter under tight security

Israel carries out 13 strikes overnight targeting four Hamas weapons factories. The operation is in retaliation against rocket attacks into Israel and the killing of two Israeli soldiers. Palestinian Christians complain about obstacles that prevent them from visiting the holy places. The patriarchs of the Holy Land release an Easter greetings message.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Three children were slightly injured in a series of raids by the Israeli military last night in the Gaza Strip. Israeli F16 fighter planes and helicopters carried out a number of strikes in response to rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel, and the killing of two soldiers on 26 March. Meanwhile Palestinian Christians complain about the obstacles put up by Israel that are preventing them from getting to Christian holy places for Easter celebrations.

According to the BBC, Israeli aircrafts struck Gaza 13 times last night. Military sources in Israel said that four weapons factories were the target of the operation.  Israel also hit a Hamas post near Khan Yunis, not far from where two Israeli soldiers and two Hamas fighters were killed in clashes last week.

A cheese and diary factory was equally hit in Gaza City and a metal foundry was destroyed in Nusseirat, in the central part of the Strip.

Three children, aged two, four and 11, were slightly injured by flying glass in a raid on the Sabra district, in the western part of Gaza City.

Israel’s raid came in response to recent rocket attacks into Israel. The Israeli army said a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli town of Ashkelon late Thursday, causing damage but no casualties.

"Israel will not tolerate terroristic activity inside Gaza that threatens Israeli citizens," the Israeli military said in a statement.

Palestinian sources reported that Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over parts of Gaza yesterday warning residents of retaliation for last Friday's killings of the soldiers in Khan Yunis.

For international analysts, the latest events must be seen against a broader background in which both sides are engaged in military preparations” for a possible large-scale conflict. Even though the Israeli military is not seeking war, it has been preparing for a possible military escalation since the end of its ‘Cast Lead’ operation in December 2008 and January 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead.

For their part, Christians say Israeli security measures are limiting access to the city’s holy places, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. “In the last two or three years, it was like a military zone,” a human rights activist said.

Palestinians argue that such measures violate Israel’s claim that it respects freedom of worship in the city. At present, it is unclear whether West Bank Christians will be allowed into Jerusalem for Easter celebrations.

Palestinian news agency Ma’an has reported that crossings into the city are not open and an atmosphere of closure prevails.

In the meantime, the 13 patriarchs who head the Churches of the Holy Land issued a message of holiday greetings, inviting the faithful to “share the Good News” about Christ’s resurrection, a sign of “Hope, encouragement and perseverance” at a time of difficulties and challenges for Christians.

“We know the power of sin and death,” they write, “but we also know the power of the resurrection”, which is connected to “forgiving sins” and healing relationships “within families and within the family of nations”.

“We have huge responsibilities and great challenges,” they noted, but “we are full of hope.”

“We ask for prayers, for us and for all of you, brothers and sisters in Christ, the ‘living stones’ of the Holy Land,” so as to conduct “the fight for justice, peace and reconciliation”.

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