Melanie Nathan March 19, 2011
Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 50 rockets into Israel on Saturday, the heaviest barrage in two years, Israeli officials said, while Hamas police beat up reporters and confiscated their equipment, reports, an Deitch, of the Associated Press
A Hamas official was killed and four civilians were wounded when Israel hit back with tank fire and air strikes, said Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Adham Abu Salmia.
The violence comes amid increasing calls for reconciliation between Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his rivals, the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Abbas is seeking U.N. recognition for a Palestinian state by the fall and is currently lobbying for votes worldwide. Hamas used force to disperse a reconciliation rally in Gaza. Some reporters were later beaten up, threatened and briefly detained.
Israeli police spokesman Tamir Avtabi said Gaza militants fired 54 mortar shells at Israeli border communities within 15 minutes. He said two Israeli civilians were lightly wounded by shrapnel and residents were advised to stay at home or in bomb shelters.