Israel and the Palestinians battled each other for a third day on Saturday with rockets fired from Gaza wounding three in southern Israel while Israeli planes attacked the coastal enclave in the early hours.
In a tragic irony, the casualties from Saturday’s early-morning rocket fire on the southern Israeli city of Ashdod were all illegal Palestinian workers, sleeping rough.
“One rocket hit a house, causing damage but no casualties,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP. “The second fell on open ground, among sand dunes, where it wounded three people, Palestinians staying in Israel illegally, injuring two seriously and one moderately,” she said.
Israeli paramedics said that the injured were all men in their mid-20s who had been hit by shrapnel.
The Israeli military said that a total of six rockets fell in Israel on Saturday morning, but apart from the Ashdod attack there were no injuries.
It said that overnight the Israeli air force attacked several targets in the Gaza Strip.
“Aircraft targeted two terror tunnels and a weapons storage facility in the southern Gaza Strip, as well as a terror activity site in the northern Gaza Strip,” a military statement said.
“The terror tunnel was intended for the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory and for executing terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers,” it added.
The statement said that the raids were a response to the killing of eight Israelis by suspected Islamist militants near the Egyptian border on Thursday and the flurry of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza since then.
Palestinians reported no casualties from the overnight strikes but said that air raids on Friday and Thursday killed a total of 14 people and wounded over 40.
Israeli diplomatic officials were holding internal discussions on Saturday in the wake of Egypt’s decision to recall its ambassador from Israel, the foreign ministry spokesman told AFP on Saturday.
“There was such an Egyptian announcement and we are holding discussions based on what has transpired,” spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
Egyptian state television said Saturday that the ambassador was being withdrawn to protest the deaths of five Egyptian policemen killed during an Israeli pursuit of militants after Thursday’s killings.
The Israeli military has pledged to probe the incident and advise Egypt of its findings.
“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will investigate the matter thoroughly and update the Egyptians,” a spokesman told AFP on Friday.
There have been conflicting reports from the Egyptian military and police about how they lost their lives.
A military official told MENA on Thursday that they were killed by stray Israeli helicopter fire aimed at the fleeing gunmen.
But on Friday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper quoted a military official as saying the policemen were killed by gunmen trying to slip in from Israel.
Enan’s visit was announced shortly after another policeman was declared dead following a border gunfight on Friday, which left one of his comrades gravely wounded with a bullet in the head.
Earlier, Israeli security sources told AFP they had information that a man had blown himself up on the Egyptian side of the border, saying they believed he was one of the men on the run.