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10 Nov, 2012 19:19

6 Palestinians dead in mounting conflict, Israel prepares to escalate attacks (VIDEO)

The Israeli government is prepared to retaliate against recent attacks from Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday. Israelis and Palestinians are exchanging artillery and rocket fire, leaving six dead and dozens injured.

"The world needs to understand that Israel will not sit with arms crossed when faced by attempts to hurt us. And we are prepared to harshen the response," Netanyahu said during talks with his cabinet that were also broadcast on Israeli TV.The conflict broke out after Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli military jeep. Palestinian witnesses said that Gaza militants fired a rocket at an IDF jeep on the edge of the Gaza Strip's border, east of Gaza City.

Four IDF soldiers were injured in the attack, one critically, the Israeli Defense Ministry reported. The wounded soldier was airlifted to a hospital in the town of Be’er Sheva.The attack sparked retaliatory artillery and air strikes by the IDF, killing six Palestinian civilians and injuring dozens more.Gaza medical officials said all four Palestinians killed in the artillery fire were civilians between the ages of 16 and 18, and that children were among the wounded. The number of wounded has reached 40, according to a Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson.

The Gaza Strip responded to the attacks by firing rockets at southern Israel.The Jerusalem Post reported that over 50 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel in the last 24 hours, 20 of which were launched on Sunday morning. The IDF confirmed that some of the rockets were intercepted by the country's Iron Dome air defense system.Four Israeli civilians reportedly suffered mild injuries during the attacks.

Islamic Jihad claimed its militants fired 70 rockets, indicating that several failed to strike Israeli territory.Israeli Air Force jets were witnessed in the skies over Gaza. They located and conducted an air strike against one of the militants' rocket launch pads, reportedly killing two militants and wounding two others.

Israeli authorities advised citizens to stay near their homes in case the attacks resume. School classes were cancelled near Israel's southern border due to the rocket fire.On Sunday morning, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio that the IDF is “trying to ensure that Israel can operate as normal," and said that “sometimes you get hit, because that's how it goes in a boxing ring."

A day earlier, Barak acknowledged that the IDF’s response was disproportionate, and said the military was considering further action for the coming days. “We will not tolerate deterioration on the border fence,” he said.The Israeli military blamed Gaza's Hamas leadership for the attack. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum responded by criticizing Israel for killing civilians."Targeting civilians is a dangerous escalation that cannot be tolerated. The resistance has the full right to respond to the Israeli crimes," he said.

According to some reports, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, has claimed responsibility for attacking the IDF truck.Previously, similar incidents that lead to civilian casualties have sparked days of Israeli military strikes and Palestinian rocket attacks.