Eleven dead in wave of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza
U.S. urges restraint to avoid civilian casualties
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department cautioned Israel to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage after five Israeli airstrikes that killed 11 people Monday in Gaza.
About 130 people were wounded in the attacks Monday, a day after Palestinians fired rockets from northern Gaza into southern Israel and killed three Israeli troops in an ambush in the West Bank.
"We urge the government of Israel to take all appropriate cautions to prevent the death and injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure," deputy spokesman J. Adam Ereli told CNN.
"We continue to make clear that while Israel has a right to defend itself, we remain concerned of the impact of its actions on innocent civilians, and we continue to reiterate that view."
Ereli added that the Bush administration also "reminds the Palestinians of their commitments to crack down on terror." He said officials at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv were monitoring the situation.
A top Palestinian official on Tuesday called the airstrikes a "bloody massacre."
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the bloody massacre that was committed in Gaza, and we urge the U.S. administration to condemn this vicious escalation and to stop this Israeli government from destroying any hope for peace and reconciliation," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Palestinian security sources said the fifth attack Monday was at the same location as the first strike of the day, which Israel described as a weapons factory belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
It was not immediately clear whether anyone was killed or injured in the fifth strike. Israeli military sources said the latest attack was an effort to make sure the Hamas facility was destroyed.
Shortly before the fifth attack, an Israeli helicopter targeted a car in central Gaza in a strike that left eight dead and nearly 100 wounded, at least 15 of them critically, the Palestinian sources said. Palestinian security sources said one missile hit the car and another hit the street.
The other strikes targeted a van carrying Hamas militants and a two-room hut in a field that was used to store weapons, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources. Palestinian sources said no one was inside the hut and that there were no casualties.
The first three strikes of the day left three dead -- two of them members of the military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al Qassam -- and at least 31 wounded, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources.
Hamas later issued a leaflet vowing "unique and violent" revenge on Palestinian collaborators with Israel.
Izzedine al Qassam has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military. The U.S. State Department has labeled Hamas a terrorist organization.
Americans warned to leave Gaza
In Washington, the State Department warned Americans in Gaza to leave the area Monday amid concerns for security.
The State Department had already warned against travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but the advisory issued Monday night cited the bombing of a U.S. convoy in Gaza last week, which killed three Americans working for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and said the possibility of future attacks against U.S. interests are a concern.
"Ongoing violence has caused numerous civilian deaths and injuries, including to some American tourists, students and residents, as well as to U.S. Mission personnel," the advisory said.
"The potential for further terrorist acts remains high. The situation in Israel, Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank remains extremely volatile with continuing terrorist attacks, confrontations and clashes."
The few U.S. citizens in Gaza include nongovernmental organization workers.
Mortars fired at Jewish settlements
Hours after the first wave of Israeli airstrikes Monday, two mortar shells were fired at the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in Gaza, and one Qassam rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel, the IDF said. Later, another Qassam rocket was fired at Israel, and a mortar shell was fired at an IDF post in Gaza. No injuries were reported in those attacks.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei condemned the strikes by Israeli warplanes and helicopters, and renewed his call for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants.
In an address Monday to the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the IDF "will carry on efforts to catch terrorists and foil terrorist attacks."
The Israeli attacks came a day after eight Palestinian Qassam rockets were launched from northern Gaza into Sderot in southern Israel. There were no reports of injuries.
Just hours after Sunday's launches, gunmen killed three Israeli soldiers and wounded a fourth in an ambush on an army patrol in the West Bank.
The attack occurred about 7 p.m. Sunday (1 p.m. EDT) in the Palestinian village of Ein Yabrud, about three miles (five kilometers) northeast of Ramallah, an IDF spokesman said.