Jerusalem – The Israeli military and militants based in the Gaza Strip exchanged attacks Saturday in a sharp escalation of violence that killed nine Palestinians and one Israeli.
Palestinian sources said five Islamic Jihad militants were killed in an initial Israeli airstrike near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, including a prominent maker of rockets. Israeli media reported that the airstrike targeted a cell responsible for launching a rocket into Israel recently.
A few hours later, a barrage of about 20 rockets began landing in southern Israel, some making direct hits on residential buildings and setting cars and property on fire. One rocket landed in a school in the city of Ashdod that was closed for the Sabbath.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Two additional Israeli airstrikes killed four more Islamic Jihad members, Palestinian sources said. One Israeli was killed, according to Israeli media, and several injured people were taken to hospitals.
Ex-Baath Party members arrested
Baghdad – Iraq’s prime minister said Saturday that 615 people have been detained in a security sweep targeting members of the former ruling Baath Party.
Arrests on this scale are likely to alarm Sunni Arabs, who consider use of the term “Baathists” by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government to be a coded way to refer to Sunni politicians, army officers, and other prominent members of their community.
The arrests coincide with a recent autonomy push by a mostly-Sunni province in north-central Iraq, the latest bone of contention between Sunni political blocs and the Baghdad government.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki revealed the size of the sweep in comments released Saturday by the state-run Iraqiya TV channel during which he defended the detentions.
Village raided after embassy attack
Gornja Maoca, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Special police units raided homes Saturday in a Bosnian village linked to the gunman who fired an automatic weapon at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo in what authorities called a terrorist attack.
The raids came as 17 suspected associates of the shooter, all said to be members of the ultraconservative Wahhabi Muslim sect, were briefly detained in Serbia.
A convoy of police vehicles entered the isolated northern village of Gornja Maoca, known to be inhabited by many Wahhabis, and officers wearing black masks and camouflage uniforms surrounded several houses, according to an Associated Press video.
The gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Mevlid Jasarevic, is accused of shooting at the embassy building in Sarajevo for at least 30 minutes Friday, wounding a policeman guarding the facility, before a police sniper immobilized him with a shot in his leg.
Jasarevic is believed to be a follower of the Wahhabi sect, and police said he visited Gornja Maoca several times this and last year.
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