Hamas armed wing ends truce with Israel

Announcement comes as Israel pounds Gaza for two days with retaliatory air
strikes, killing at least 14 Palestinians.

The Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, announced that they were no
longer committed to a more than two-year de facto ceasefire with Israel.

“There is no longer any truce with the enemy,” said the statement broadcast
over a Hamas radio station early on Saturday.

Rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel and Israeli aircraft
have struck targets in the Palestinian territory in the back-and-forth aftermath
of deadly attacks a day before in southern Israel.

At least eleven Palestinians have been killed and 30 were injured in the past
24 hours by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip which began on Thursday.  Four
Israelis have been injured by rockets fired from Gaza.

The casualties are a result of exchanged attacks following a series of deadly
assaults by gunmen who targeted two buses, a car and an army vehicle in the area
north of Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat on Thursday.

Eight Israelis, including six civilians and two soldiers, were killed that
day alongside seven of the attackers, among which were two suicide bombers who
detonated near a bus and during a confrontation with soldiers. Over 40 Israelis
were also wounded, local media reported.

Israel said the attackers had infiltrated from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and
vowed, and officials vowed to “hunt down” the perpetrators.

Israeli officials have blamed a Gaza-based militant group called the Popular
Resistance Committees (PRC) for Thursday’s attacks, although the faction has
denied any involvement. The PRC is not affiliated with the Hamas movement that
governs Gaza.

Three Palestinians including a 5-year-old boy were killed and 3 passersby
were injured in an attack on a vehicle in central Gazas City. Al Jazeera’s
Safwat Al Kahlout reported.

Previously, the latest air strike on the Gaza Strip hit Bureij refugee camp
in central Gaza late Friday night, killing two men.

The Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the militant Islamic Jihad, confirmed
that one of the men, Emad Abu Abda, was their member. The other man’s identity
and possible affiliations were not immediately known.

This was the Israeli air forces’ sixth operation since beginning their raids
in retaliation for Thursday’s incidents.

Hours earlier, the Israeli air force targeted rocket launchers, “two weapons
manufacturing sites in central Gaza” and “terrorist activity in the north and
the south” of the strip”, the Israeli military told Al Jazeera.

Five members of the PRC, including its leader, were killed in Thursday’s
overnight air strike in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and another killed on
Friday, Al Kahlout reported from Gaza.

Abu Mujahid, a PRC spokesman, has said the group vows to take revenge
“against everything and everyone” for its members’ deaths.

Medical sources said at least three civilians have also been killed,
including two boys aged three and 13 who died early on Friday.

Rockets from Gaza

Over 24 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel by Friday night, some
reaching as far as the southern coastal city of Ashdod, the Israeli military
confirmed.

 

Two rockets fired at Ashdod “caused damage and injuries at a synagogue and
school”, according to a military statement. Four Israeli civilians were injured
in Ashdod, the Israeli medical service Magen David Adom told Al Jazeera.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said on Thursday that his
country “will exact a price, a very heavy price” for those who “attempt to
escalate terrorist war against Israel” and “believe that they can attack our
citizens and get away with it”.

While visiting the wounded at a medical center in the southern city of Beer
Sheva on Friday, Netanyahu said Israel’s ongoing retaliatory measures against
Gaza is not Israel’s “first reaction”. He also pledged to “speed up” the
construction of a bolstered barrier along its southern border with Egypt to
cover 100km of the stretch by the end of the year.

The barrier currently runs for 45km of the full 200km stretch. The Israeli
defence ministry had planned several months ago to complete the project by
2012.

Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military,
said Israel does not seek to escalate the situation because it is “not the ones
who chose to target civilian buses and vehicles”.

Leibovich said Israeli forces were targeting “not only specific terror
organisations in Gaza, but rather anyone who has some influence … with
terror”, including groups of people it suspects of launching rocket attacks.

According to Gaza residents, three Hamas-controlled compounds in Rafah were
among the targets hit in Thursday’s late night air strikes.

Ghazi Hamad, Hamas’ deputy foreign minister, denied any connection between
Hamas or the people of Gaza with the attacks in southern Israel.

“From the first moment we are surprised that Israel started to target people.
To target civilians, to target places, to target buildings before knowing who
stands behind this operation. So, I think that Israel [always] considers Gaza a
weak point that they can target them under any circumstances,” he said.

Hamad called the rocket attacks from Gaza,”a kind of natural reaction against
the Israeli aggression against our people.”

He continued: “If they stop their aggression and attacks against Gaza, I
think people here are interested in keeping Gaza calm and quiet.”

Hamad
also said that Hamas was “surprised” that members of the international community
had not condemned Israel for “killing civilians”.

(english.aljazeera.net / 19.08.02011)

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