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200 Rockets Hit Israel, 23 Gazans Killed

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- The fourth consecutive day of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave of Gaza saw the number of rockets landing in southern Israel climb to more than 190 and the death toll of Palestinians -- most of them militants -- to 23.

At least 40 rockets landed in Israel on Monday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said, with the closest landing coming around 25 miles from the country’s biggest city, Tel Aviv.  Another rocket hit the city of Ashdod, which has a population of 200,000.

Five Palestinians were killed in the latest attacks, including three civilians.  An 80-year-old Israeli woman was reported wounded by shrapnel in Ashdod, but there have been no Israeli deaths.

The violence marks the worst between Israel and Gaza in over a year, and was started when the Israeli Air Force targeted the leader of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), one of the militant groups operating in Gaza, accusing the group of planning to attack Israel via Egypt.

The PRC and another group, Islamic Jihad, responded by firing missiles ranging from mortars to Grad rockets.

Since Friday, the IDF has carried out airstrikes in response.  The targets, the IDF said, have been militants, rocket-launching sites and a rocket storage facility.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has not carried out any of the attacks, but Israel holds the group responsible for all militant activity.  Hamas officials have gone to Egypt and asked them to mediate a ceasefire, but the militants say they will continue until the airstrikes stop.

“The Zionist state began this aggression.  It has to stop its aggression first and then we will evaluate the situation and study the possibility of calm,” a spokesman wrote on Islamic Jihad’s website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Monday to keep up the strikes, promising to “hit anyone who plans to harm us.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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