Militants in the Gaza Strip fired seven rockets into Israel overnight, clouding hopes that an offer by Hamas fighters to consider a cease-fire might curtail a three-day upsurge in violence.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Hamas movement that rules Gaza, said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday that its members were ready to stop firing rockets at southern Israel when Israel halts air strikes. That was before seven rockets fired from Gaza struck Israel early today, hitting open areas and causing no injuries or damage, an Israeli army spokeswoman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulation.
The group said it had responded positively to a “highly appreciated Egyptian effort to stop this aggression on our people. Therefore we and all factions are committed to end this round only if the occupation stops it.” Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Josh Hantman declined to comment in a phone interview whether Egypt is mediating communications with Hamas.
Israeli strikes on Gaza killed two Palestinians yesterday, bringing the death toll to nine since the most recent violence started on June 18 when an Israeli was killed in an attack on the border with Egypt.
About 120 rockets and mortar shells have hit southern Israel in the current round of fighting, an army spokesman said, speaking anonymously in accordance with Israeli military regulations.
Al Arabiya reported that the al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement that it had fired 96 rockets and nine mortar rounds at Israel. The last time Hamas claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israel was in April 2011.
The new bloodshed comes as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi claimed victory in Egypt’s presidential election, the first since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak last year.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other Israeli leaders have voiced concerns about worsening security on the border with Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state more than three decades ago. They have also cited links between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas, which Israel, the European Union and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization.
The Israeli army said one of the Palestinians killed yesterday was an Islamic militant who was behind the June 18 border attack.