Fighting flares in Gaza, shattering lull
Gaza - An anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an Israeli school bus on Thursday, wounding two people, and Israeli forces retaliated by shelling the territory, killing three Palestinians, Palestinian medics said.
A teenage boy aboard the bus was seriously wounded, and at least eight people including a 4-year-old girl were injured in the densely populated Gaza Strip by the Israeli response, which included tank, warplane and helicopter fire.
An Israeli F-16 warplane bombed a major security compound of the Islamist Hamas group which rules Gaza, rocking Gaza City with a big explosion and wounding at least one person there.
The Israeli military said 45 rockets and mortars were launched into Israeli territory from Gaza in the space of three hours, the heaviest fire in two weeks. There were no immediate reports of further Israeli casualties as a result.
In its first known combat launching of a system built to defend against cross-border rocket and missile attack, an Israeli "Iron Dome" interceptor missile destroyed a rocket fired from Gaza in the direction of the city of Ashkelon.
An Israeli helicopter gunship flying over Gaza machine-gunned a target in Gaza for the first time since the January 2009 war and fired a missile at some targets in the centre of the coastal territory.
Helicopter machinegun fire killed a 17-year-old collecting scrap from the enclave's derelict airport, medics said, and a 50-year-old man was killed by tank fire.
Palestinian sources said militants in the enclave fired back at the helicopter with a heavy machinegun.
The Israeli bus had been taking pupils home from school when it was hit by what a police spokesperson said was an anti-tank missile. Forty pupils had got off the bus at a previous stop, he said.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement saying he had ordered the military to "swiftly take all the necessary steps and respond to the attack" and that Israel held Hamas responsible for all events taking place in the enclave.
The missile attack followed a relative lull in cross-border attacks between Gaza and Israel after a sudden rise in violence last month in which at least 16 Palestinians were killed.
Israel and Hamas had signalled readiness to return to a de facto ceasefire which has kept the border relatively quiet since the end of the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war.