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Gaza: Hamas calls for truce

March 21, 2011 9:52 P.M. (Updated: March 22, 2011 10:15 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas' armed wing said Monday that it would commit to a truce if Israel stops bombarding the Gaza Strip.

However, the Al-Qassam Brigades vowed to resist if Israel continued to attack the coastal enclave.

Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida said the group had fired mortars into the Western Negev on Saturday in response to Israeli aggression. Three days earlier, two of its members were killed in an Israeli air strike.

The call for a ceasefire came as Israeli warplanes struck garages by a mosque east of Ash-Shuja'iyeh near Gaza City. No injuries were reported, but residents said Israeli fighter jets were hovering across the besieged enclave.

The Israeli military said its airforce targeted "a terror tunnel and several Hamas-affiliated militants in the northern Gaza Strip." In a statement, the army said a direct hit was confirmed.

The strike followed an intense escalation in attacks, as Gaza militants launched a barrage of projectiles toward Israeli forces and across the border in the biggest violation of an informal truce militants confirmed in January.

On Sunday, Israeli tanks shelled several targets in the central Gaza Strip, leaving one man injured by shrapnel. Meanwhile, medics were permitted to retrieve the bodies of two 17-year-old Palestinians killed by Israeli fire the night before.

During the day on Saturday, an Israeli air strike injured at least five Palestinians in Gaza City and damaged power lines, cutting electricity to neighborhoods in central and northern Gaza.

The armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the An-Nasser Brigades, issued a statement Sunday declaring its launches of projectile fire into Israel operation "Winds of Change." The group said the campaign was "in response to the offensive on Gaza."

Israel has also stepped up its rhetoric. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed the state would use "all means necessary to protect its citizens."

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni called for a repeat of Israel's devastating 2008 offensive on Gaza, Israeli news site Ynet reported. Israeli forces killed over 1,400 Palestinians in the 22-day onslaught.
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