GAZA CITY - Dashing hopes of restoring calm in the besieged coastal enclave, Israeli aircraft stepped up air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Sunday, March 11, killing two more Gazans, including a child, an onslaught that took to 17 the number of Palestinians killed in three days of attacks.
"An Israeli air raid east of the Jabaliya refugee camp killed a 12-year-old and wounded another Palestinian," a Palestinian medic told Agence France-Presse (AFP) after the latest strike.
Along with the schoolboy, identified as Ayoub Assaleya, medics reported a separate air strike that killed another Palestinian on Sunday.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the new strikes on the besieged enclave.
"Aircraft targeted a terrorist squad that was in the final stages of preparing to fire rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip," a military statement said.
The new deaths came after three Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza on Saturday -- one near the southern town of Rafah on the border with Egypt and two in Khan Yunis.
The fatalities brought to 17 the total number of Palestinians, including the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zohair al-Qaisi, and fellow member Mahmud Hanani, killed in deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza since Friday.
At least 28 Palestinians have been wounded, five seriously.
The Israeli military argue that the PRC fighters killed on Friday night were planning attacks via Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
"The Israeli army will hit anyone planning to attack Israeli citizens," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
The killings unleashed a spiral of tit-for-tat violence on the Israel-Gaza border with Palestinians launching more than 100 rockets on southern Israeli settlements.
The deadly onslaught brings to memories the deadly Israeli offensive on Gaza three years ago, which left at least 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians, and wounded thousands.
The offensive also wrecked havoc on the Gaza infrastructure, destroying thousands of building across the impoverished territory.
Gaza Sinks in Blood
The deadly Israeli attacks drew fierce condemnations in the Palestinian territories and the Arab world.
Gaza is "sinking in darkness and in blood," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.
The Palestinian Authority also condemned Israel's escalation, saying it would "escalate the circle of violence in the region."
Hamas, which rules Gaza, also branded the killings a crime but said it was making contacts through Egypt to try to restore the tacit truce.
"We really want to put an end to the (Israeli) aggression in the Gaza Strip and the contacts that we have made with Egypt are to that end," Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu told AFP.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas also discussed renewing the ceasefire in talks with Hamas's exiled leader Khaled Meshaal and the leader of Islamic Jihad Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, the Palestinians' official Wafa news agency reported.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamal Amr told state news agency MENA that his government was "making crucial calls for an immediate end to this Israeli escalation to end bloodshed of our brothers".
The Arab League accused Israel of carrying out a "massacre" and called for a tough stance from the international community against the Israeli aggression.
The United States and the European Union also joined the chorus of calls for calm in Gaza."We call on both sides to make every effort to restore calm," said US State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, echoing an EU statement that voiced concerns.