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Eight killed in border assaults

Gunmen who crossed from the Egyptian desert have launched a series of attacks in southern Israel, killing eight people and threatening to destabilise a border region that includes the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Israel blamed an armed Palestinian group from neighbouring Gaza for the attack. Israeli forces killed five of the gunmen along the border with Egypt, the military said, and later launched eight airstrikes inside Gaza.

One killed five other militants from the gunmen's group as well as a child, while a 13-year-old boy was killed in another strike, Gaza medical officials said.

The Israeli military said three of the men killed in Gaza had been involved in planning the attack.

Gunfire continued on both sides of the border late into the evening.

After nightfall on Thursday, Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-missile system intercepted a rocket fired by Gaza militants at the city of Ashkelon, the military said.

On Friday morning five rockets fired from Gaza struck southern Israel. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The attacks were the deadliest against Israelis since a gunman killed eight civilians in Jerusalem in 2008.

The incidents suggested that Egypt's recent political upheaval and a resulting power vacuum in Sinai had allowed militants to open a new front against Israel on the long-quiet frontier.

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