Muslims attack Israel after truce
JERUSALEM (AP) — Militants in Gaza launched rockets at southern Israel on Wednesday and Israeli planes attacked smuggling tunnels in retaliation as a stable truce between the two sides remained elusive.
The Palestinian prime minister said the international community will be asked to donate $2.8 billion to rebuilding Gaza after Israel’s offensive last month, and talks started in Cairo on a reconciliation of the feuding Palestinian governments seen as essential in securing the foreign aid.
No injuries were reported in either the rocket attacks or the airstrike.
Militants fired two rockets early in the day and Israeli aircraft struck seven tunnels in the southern Gaza town of Rafah several hours later in response, the Israeli military said.
Palestinians working in the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border evacuated before the strike after they saw Egyptian troops across the border pull back, presumably when they were warned by Israel, according to Hamas security officials.
The rocket attacks and retaliatory airstrikes have become routine in the aftermath of Israel’s three-week Gaza offensive, which left some 1,300 Palestinians dead and demolished or damaged thousands of homes.
The sides independently declared informal cease-fires on Jan. 18, but Egyptian-mediated talks on a longer-term agreement have been unsuccessful so far, and sporadic violence persists.
As separate talks approach next week on rebuilding Gaza, the Palestinian prime minister said the international community will be asked to donate $2.8 billion, but warned the money would do no good unless Gaza’s borders reopened.
Hamas wants Israel to open Gaza’s border crossings, but Israel says it won’t until Hamas frees an Israeli soldier held since June 2006. Hamas doesn’t want to link the reopening of the crossings to the soldier’s fate, saying he should be part of a prisoner exchange deal independent of the truce talks.
Adding to the tension are the recent rocket attacks. Smaller militant groups have claimed them, but Israel holds Hamas responsible as the ruling power in Gaza. A small faction calling itself Hezbollah Palestine took responsibility for Wednesday’s attack in a statement sent to reporters in Gaza.
Israel sealed its borders with Gaza after Islamic Hamas militants overran the territory in June 2007. The takeover resulted in the creation of feuding Palestinian governments, with Hamas in charge of Gaza and the West Bank controlled by the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.
Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas started Wednesday with a series of “icebreaking” meetings, members said.
“We agreed on the mechanism to solve the issue of prisoners,” said Nabil Shaath, a top Abbas aide. “We agree to stop all media attacks against each other. This will be immediate.”