Gaza rockets, Israeli air strikes persist despite truce call

Updated: 2014-03-14 10:02


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There was no immediate word of any injuries. On Thursday morning, before the Islamic Jihad cease-fire announcement, three Palestinians were hurt in an Israeli air strike.

On Wednesday, Israel carried out 29 air strikes and its tanks shelled militant targets in Gaza as Islamic Jihad fired 60 rockets. There were no casualties in Wednesday's exchange.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, a unilateral move that boosted Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups hostile to the Jewish state.

Since then, there have been several outbreaks of fighting. In recent months, however, Hamas has sought to maintain calm after being weakened by the fall of sympathetic Islamist politicians in Cairo and by the resulting clampdown on arms and commercial smuggling from Egypt to Gaza.

Israel's hard line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has called for Gaza to be retaken and Hamas crushed. Such actions would prove to be bloody and damaging for peace talks with the rival U.S.-backed Palestinian administration in the occupied West Bank.

"The only solution to this situation of a ceaseless cycle of terror is reoccupation of Gaza and a clean-out of the stables there," Lieberman said on Facebook on Thursday.

Netanyahu, however, sounded more restrained. He vowed Israel would "hit back with increasing force" against anyone who tried to ruin celebrations over the next few days of the Jewish festival of Purim.

Israel did not publicly respond to Islamic Jihad's truce announcement but one of its senior defence officials said earlier on Thursday he expected the fighting to die down soon.

Palestinian sources noted that Hamas had not joined in the rocket attacks, an apparent sign that it hoped to avoid a wider conflict, but it did not immediately act to stop the launches, either.

Islamic Jihad has strong ties with Iran, Israel's arch-foe, and it is the second largest faction in the enclave. Smaller groups include al Qaeda-aligned militants.

Last week Israel's navy seized a ship in the Red Sea. Israeli officials said it was ferrying advanced Iranian-supplied rockets to Gaza.

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