The moment of panic as a deadly missile flew from the sky
GLISTENING in the sunlight, the sleek and deadly missile speeds towards the ground as Palestinians run desperately for cover.
Moments later, its impact and explosion throws up clouds of choking dust into the air.
The dramatic photograph captured just one of numerous missile strikes launched by both Israeli war planes and Palestinian militants yesterday, despite calls for a truce.
The missile was fired at a Hamas "Executive Force" building in Nusseirat refugee camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip, with Israeli warplanes pounding the Strip for a ninth day.
The photographer Mahmoud Hams, of the AFP agency, had been taking pictures of the Executive Force building because it had come under rocket attack some 30 minutes earlier.
"As we were standing there, suddenly we heard the Israeli F-16 jets fly over us. They made one pass and then another and next thing they were firing two missiles," he told The Scotsman.
"I started taking photos the moment people started running and then as the rocket hit the ground, I hit the ground too."
When asked how he was feeling given his close call, he said: "It's a job, it's a crazy job."
It is not thought anyone died in this attack, but at least two people were killed later when Israeli planes bombed a van, according to Palestinian doctors. Another rocket hit near the home of the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, of the Hamas faction.
Meanwhile, Hamas's militant wing claimed responsibility for firing two rockets into the Israeli border town of Sderot, one of which hit a house, injuring three people, said the Israeli army.
More than 150 rockets have been fired in the past two weeks, ending six months of relative calm. An Israeli woman was killed on Monday and many more have been injured.
Israeli strikes have killed at least 35, of which militant groups say 23 were fighters.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the secular Fatah group, has called for an end to Hamas rocket attacks - calling them "pointless" and "needless" - as a prelude to a wider ceasefire with Israel.
But a senior Hamas figure condemned his conciliatory moves towards Israel. "Abbas hates rockets just like we hate the Jews," Nizar Rayyan said during a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip. "He does not like resistance and he does not like Jihad. He is a man who wants us to surrender. We will not listen to him."
He repeated Hamas's insistence that rocket attacks would continue.
The missile strikes by Israeli warplanes overnight Thursday and yesterday represented the most intensive period of attacks since the air campaign began ten days ago.
Ahmed Youssef, political adviser to Mr Haniyeh, said: "These are all messages and signals that aim to undermine and hamper the movement of the prime minister."
Israel insisted Mr Haniyeh was not a target of the missile that landed near his home overnight, although Israeli officials have warned Hamas leaders that they could be attacked. Mr Haniyeh, wearing a tracksuit and trainers, went to inspect the site, but guards pulled him away because Israeli jets were still in the sky.
Other targets around that time were a money changer's shop in Gaza City that the army said funnelled funds to terror organisations, and a Hamas post in northern Gaza.
Another air strike targeted a Hamas training centre south of Gaza City, destroying the compound and lightly injuring at least three, witnesses said.
Though street fighting between Fatah and Hamas has died down since a flare-up two weeks ago that killed 50 people, tension remains high between the partners in the two-month-old Palestinian unity government.
Mr Haniyeh brought Fatah ministers into a coalition cabinet in March in a bid to ease tension and alleviate year-old international sanctions but bitter divisions have been exposed by fighting in Gaza.
Representatives of Fatah and Hamas may meet Egyptian mediators separately in Cairo within days, Palestinian and Egyptian officials said. A Fatah delegation is due there today and a Hamas spokesman said it would be ready to meet Egyptian officials.
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