GAZA • An Israeli air strike on a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip yesterday brought down a nearby house, killing a pregnant Palestinian woman and her toddler, officials said, as a wave of violence in the region triggered fears of wider escalation.
The air strike came on the same day as a car bomb set off by a Palestinian woman at a checkpoint in the West Bank. The attempted suicide attack left her and an Israeli police officer wounded, police said.
The policeman had spotted a "suspicious" vehicle near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim and ordered the woman to stop. As he approached, she shouted "God is great" in Arabic and detonated the bomb, the police added.
The Israeli military said in a statement that its air force had targeted two weapon sites belonging to Hamas, the Islamist militant group which controls Gaza, in response to the launching of two rockets into Israel last Friday and Saturday.
Witnesses said the powerful explosion at one of the Hamas camps in Gaza City caused a nearby house to collapse while its inhabitants were sleeping inside.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said the woman killed was aged 30 and pregnant, and her daughter was three.
A five-year-old boy and a man were wounded, he added.
No group has claimed responsibility for launching the rockets, one of which was intercepted near the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon. The other hit an open area, causing no casualties. The Israeli military said it held Hamas responsible for any attacks from Gaza. But Hamas yesterday warned Israel against "foolishness" after the air strike.
"This shows the occupation's desire to escalate," said Mr Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. "We warn the occupation against continuing this foolishness."
In the past 12 days of bloodshed, four Israelis and 22 Palestinians, many of whom had carried out knife attacks, have been killed in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Israeli cities.
This has raised concerns that a new Palestinian uprising may be brewing. Palestinians have been angered by events at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, and fear Israel wants to change the religious status quo at Islam's third holiest shrine, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Israel has said it has no intention of doing so.
The almost daily Palestinian knife attacks and clashes between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians are not at the levels of past Palestinian uprisings, but the rapid escalation has triggered talk of a third "intifada".
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE