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Gaza Rockets Dwindle After Militants Ask Israel for Truce

Gaza Rockets Dwindle After Militants Ask Israel for Cease-Fire
Palestinians stand in front of graffiti depicting a resistance fighter in Gaza City. Photographer: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

Rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel dwindled to two today, after Palestinian militant groups said they would cease fire if Israel refrained from military strikes.

Israeli military aircraft hit three targets in Gaza overnight, striking a weapons storage facility and two launching sites, the army said in an e-mailed statement. No injuries were reported from the strikes, Gaza officials said.

Gaza militants have fired more than 115 rockets into Israel since Nov. 10, according to the army. Several were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Even as calm returned, Israeli leaders said they reserved the right to act in Gaza and warned of a larger military operation if rocket fire and cross-border attacks do not completely cease.

“Hamas and the other terrorist organizations are suffering as a result of intense strikes in Gaza,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today in an e-mailed statement. “But it is certainly not over and we will decide how and when to act if necessary.”

Hamas convened a meeting of Palestinian militant groups in Gaza last night to reach agreement on a truce in rocket attacks. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters after the meeting that “the response of resistance will depend on the extent of the Israeli aggression against our people.”

Iron Dome

The latest violence in the south escalated when Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli patrol along the Gaza Strip border fence on Nov. 10, wounding four soldiers. The Israeli military responded with tank shelling and air strikes into Gaza, killing seven people and wounding more than 30, according to Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. A seventh Palestinian died of his wounds today, al-Qedra said.

Amid the concern over Gaza, Israel also faces the prospect that fighting between forces loyal to Syrian Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to oust him could destabilize its quietest frontier since the 1973 Middle East war. Mortars fired from Syria struck the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights on Nov. 11 and 12, spurring retaliatory fire from Israeli forces.

Maintaining Calm

“We have no interest in interfering with developments in Syria,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said today in an e-mailed statement from his office. “The message is clear that we don’t want to involve ourselves in the conflict, but just to maintain the calm on the border.”

Israel’s shekel strengthened 0.3 percent to 3.9278 per dollar as of 4:13 p.m. in Tel Aviv, after weakening as much as 0.7 percent yesterday.

The Islamic Hamas movement seized control of Gaza from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in 2007, ending a partnership government a year after winning parliamentary elections. The group refuses to recognize Israel or any prior deals signed with it, and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

Israel sent troops into Gaza in December 2008 for a three-week offensive it said was aimed at stopping rocket attacks. More than 1,000 Palestinians and at least 13 Israelis were killed in the fighting.

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