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12 die in Israeli strikes on Gaza

Israeli aircraft and tanks have pounded Gaza, killing seven Hamas militants and five civilians in a surge of fighting sparked by a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli school bus the day before.

Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers seemed on the brink of another round of intense violence, just a little over two years after a three-week war in which persistent rocket fire from Gaza triggered a devastating Israeli military offensive in the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack on the school bus "crossed a line" and warned that "whoever tries to harm and murder children will pay with their life".

In Thursday's attack, Gaza militants hit a yellow Israeli school bus near the border with a guided anti-tank missile, injuring the driver and badly wounding a 16-year-old boy. Most of the schoolchildren on the bus had gotten off shortly before the attack. Hamas, which had largely held its fire since Israel's last major offensive, claimed responsibility.

Early Saturday, an Israeli airstrike against a vehicle travelling near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip killed three Hamas militants, including a senior commander, the group said.

Hamas said 29-year-old Tayser Abu Snima and two of his assistants were killed in the blast.

The early morning attack brought the two-day death toll from Israel's ongoing retaliation to 17 Gazans - 10 militants, a Hamas policeman and six civilians - amounting to the bloodiest tally since Israel and Hamas wrapped up their three-week-long war more than two years ago.

The dead on Friday included three civilians killed by Israeli tank fire and three militants killed in an airstrike, both near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. Another militant was killed in an airstrike in northern Gaza.

Later, an Israeli tank shell struck a cemetery east of Gaza City, killing two civilians, including an 11-year-old boy, said Palestinian health official Adham Abu Salmiya. The military insisted the strike targeted militants and that it had no information about any civilian casualties.

Gaza militants fired some 30 and mortar shells at southern Israel on Friday, causing no injuries, the Israeli military said.

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