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Israeli Worker, 3-Year-Old Palestinian Girl, Killed in Gaza Flare-Up

Israeli forces killed a 3-year-old girl and wounded 10 others in a retaliatory strike against Gaza after a Palestinian militant shot dead an Israeli man working on the security fence separating the Palestinian territory from Israel.

Haaretz reports Israeli contract worker Salah Abu Latif, 22, was working on the security fence at Kibbutz Nahal Oz when he was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper firing from Gaza. The Palestinian militant resistance group Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

Israeli forces retaliated by launching ground and air attacks against six different targets inside Gaza linked to the militant resistance groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the democratically-elected leaders of the enclave. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed one of the sites targeted was a weapons manufacturing facility and that other sites were attacked because they were part of a “terror infrastructure.” Hamas officials said Israeli warplanes bombed its training camps in Khan Younis and al-Bureij. Witnesses also reported Israeli tanks firing artillery rounds east of Gaza City.

Reuters reports a 3-year-old Palestinian girl, identified as Hala Abu Sbeikha, was standing with her family outside their home in the al-Bureij refugee camp when she was struck and killed by Israeli shrapnel. Her mother and two of her brothers were reportedly wounded. Hamas issued a statement condemning the girl’s killing as “a criminal and cowardly act.”

Hala Abu Sbeikha (Palestinian TV)

Hala Abu Sbeikha (Palestinian TV)

Ehab Al-Ghsain, a spokesman for Hamas, said that the group was “making internal efforts to contain the situation” and that Egyptian moderators were being consulted in an attempt to avert an escalation of hostilities. Egypt and the United States were instrumental in brokering a cease-fire during the brief but brutal 2012 war between Israel and Gazan militants that left more than 150 people, almost all of them Palestinians, dead.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both sides to respect the cease-fire and “exert maximum restraint to prevent another cycle of bloodshed.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the sniper attack “an extremely grave incident.”

“We won’t ignore it,” vowed Netanyahu. “Our policy has been to thwart [Palestinian attacks] and to respond forcefully, and that is what we will do in this case.”

The Gaza flare-up comes just days after Palestinian militants planted a bomb on a Jerusalem bus, which was evacuated moments before the device detonated. No one was hurt.

Violence in the illegally-occupied West Bank has also increased recently, with at least 19 Palestinians and four Israelis killed there since July.

Five years ago this week, Israeli forces launched Operation Cast Lead, a prolonged air attack and full-scale ground invasion of Gaza in response to Palestinian militant rocket fire into Israel. More than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed, thousands of Gaza homes were destroyed, and billions of dollars of economic damage occurred. On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and three civilians were killed.

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