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Gaza militants fire at Israel; Palestinian killed

JERUSALEM – Gaza militants fired rockets at Israel early Thursday, defying warnings that Israel will not tolerate renewed attacks on the country’s south. In the West Bank, authorities discovered the body of a second Palestinian protester killed in clashes a day earlier.

The events are likely to further raise tensions in the region, already heightened this week by the death of a Palestinian prisoner from cancer in an Israeli jail. Late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel will defend itself against attacks from Gaza.

“If the quiet is violated, we will respond strongly,” Netanyahu said during a meeting with visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide. “The security of Israel’s citizens is my chief concern and we will know how to defend the security of our people.”

Several rockets were fired from Gaza early Thursday but only one exploded in Israel, causing no injuries, the military said. It said the other projectiles exploded prematurely inside Gaza.

The militants from the coastal territory have fired several rockets at Israel since November, when an informal truce took hold after eight days of fighting. The offensive was launched in part to halt the almost daily Palestinian rocket attacks.

Israel retaliated for the first time this week. Hours before Netanyahu’s warning, Israel’s new Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon also said that he will not allow rocket attacks to become routine again. Israel holds Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers responsible for all attacks from the strip. A small al-Qaida-influenced group has been suspected in some of the more recent attacks.

Also Thursday, the body of a Palestinian man was found near a military post in the West Bank, reported the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Protests in the territory had turned violent late on Wednesday when Palestinians threw firebombs at soldiers who shot and killed one protester.

Mohammed Ayyad, a spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent, said both Palestinians – the one found Thursday and the one killed during Wednesday’s clashes – were shot in the chest.

The Israeli military said soldiers opened fire at Palestinians who attacked them with firebombs and that it was investigating the incident.

Demonstrations first erupted across the West Bank on Tuesday over the death of a Palestinian prisoner who died from cancer. The prisoner, 64-year-old Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, was serving a life sentence for a 2002 foiled bombing of a busy Jerusalem cafe.

The two killed Palestinians added to the likelihood of further unrest in the Palestinian territories after funerals on Thursday.

After Abu Hamdiyeh died, the Palestinians blamed Israel for the death, saying he was not given proper medical care. Israel says the prisoner was treated by specialist doctors in hospital.

Israel’s health ministry said an autopsy performed Wednesday found a cancerous growth in Abu Hamdiyeh’s throat and secondary cancerous growths in his neck, chest, lungs, liver, and spinal cord. It said hospital records showed he was a heavy smoker. The head of the Palestinian pathological institute also participated in the autopsy.

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