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Truce fails to end cross border violence

Oct. 30, 2011 9:55 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 31, 2011 9:53 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A truce secured through Egyptian mediation early on Sunday failed to end cross border violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The truce aimed to put an end to the violence which had killed nine Palestinian gunmen and an Israeli civilian on Saturday.

Sources close to Gaza's ruling Hamas movement and to Islamic Jihad, which was at the forefront of fierce cross-border fighting on Saturday said that Egyptian intelligence officials helped broker a ceasefire due to take hold at 6 a.m.

Three rockets were fired at Israel after the 6 a.m. deadline for the truce, an Israeli official said. Two were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile shield and another slammed into southern Israel causing no casualties or damage.

Israel's air force bombed an Islamic Jihad base in southern Gaza on Saturday afternoon, killing five senior operatives and drawing Palestinian rocket salvoes that killed an Israeli civilian.

Four more fighters from the al-Quds Brigades were killed in separate strikes.

Medical spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya identified two of them as Sami Abu Sabt, 21, and Suleiman Abu Fatima, 25, both members of Islamic Jihad's armed wing.

The Palestinian civil defense managed to recover the bodies of two other Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes late Saturday. They were later identified as Suheil Jundieh and Murdi Hajjaj.

One of some 30 rockets and mortar bombs fired at Israel killed a man in the city of Ashkelon. Two other people were wounded.

Israel kept schools shut in its southern region on Sunday as a precaution against further rocket fire, while hundreds of thousands of civilians within 40 km of Gaza were urged to stay indoors.

Richard Miron, the spokesman for UN special envoy for the peace process Robert Serry, said the recent escalations "are very worrying."

Miron said Saturday in a statement received by Ma'an that "it is vital to de-escalate now, without delay. We strongly appeal for calm and an end to the violence and bloodshed."

Islamic Jihad said a commander, Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil, and four comrades who had overseen production of bombs and rockets were killed in Saturday's Israeli strike on the base. Two other fighters were wounded.

Islamic Jihad vowed revenge, a call echoed by smaller groups in the coastal territory.

"There is no chance of speaking about a truce now, following such a big crime against leaders of the group," Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmed said on Saturday.

Islamic Jihad and two more secular factions, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah-aligned al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, claimed responsibility for most of Saturday's rocket fire.

Israel demanded international intervention to stop the Palestinian attacks.

Hamas last week repatriated an Israeli soldier it seized in 2006 in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 jailed Palestinians. There were no claims of any Hamas involvement in Saturday's violence.

Commenting on the Islamic Jihad deaths, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of a "serious escalation against our people."

Reuters contributed to this report
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