Monday, November 23, 2009

Gaza Attacked by Israeli Warplanes; Groups Deny Ceasefire

Monday, November 23, 2009
12:02 Mecca time, 09:02 GMT

Gaza groups deny rocket ceasefire

Hamas had announced the ceasefire on Saturday, hours after three
Israeli air raids

Several Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip have denied Hamas claims that an agreement has been brokered among them to stop firing rockets across the border into Israel.

The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, was the latest
group to disavow the claim.

"We are categorically denying that we have released a statement on
reaching agreement with Palestinian factions over suspending rocket firing at the Zionist enemy", Abu Obeida, a spokesman for al-Qassam Brigades, said.

"We are amazed that such an issue be circulated in the name of Izzad Din al-Qassam Brigades without their knowledge."

Earlier, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) both denied they were party to a ceasefire.

'Legitimate resistance'

Khalid al-Batch, a leading figure in the Islamic Jihad movement, said
that no agreement had been reached and warned of an Israeli military escalation.

A statement from the PFLP armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said: "We affirm that we were not part of any agreement on stopping the firing of rockets at Israel or to neutralise any form of
legitimate resistance as granted by all international codes and

The denials are a blow to Hamas, which had announced the ceasefire on Saturday, saying the move was aimed at preventing retaliatory attacks by Israel and to allow Gazans to rebuild their homes, destroyed during Israel's three-week war on Gaza launched at the end of last year.

The Hamas statement had noted that Palestinian groups would respond to attacks by Israel.

The statement came just hours after three Israeli air raids wounded
eight Palestinians.

The raids came after a rocket was fired into Israel from Gaza. The
rocket landed without causing casualties.

Israel's war on Gaza, which began in December last year and ended in January, left more 1,400 Palestinians dead.

There has been a significant reduction in the number of Palestinian
rocket attacks and Israeli air raids since both sides declared
unilateral ceasefires following the conflict.

Source:Al Jazeera

From the November 22, 2009 edition -

Israel air strikes in Gaza: Will Hamas rocket truce hold?

Gaza militants vowed counterattacks for Israeli air strikes, one day
after Hamas-brokered deal to stop rocket attacks

By Erin Cunningham | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Gaza City, Gaza

Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes against targets across the
Gaza Strip Sunday morning, just one day after Hamas announced it had reached an agreement with all Gaza-based militant factions to halt rocket fire into the Jewish state.

The early morning Israeli raids – which injured eight Palestinians
(three at metal workshops in northern and central Gaza, as well as
five at smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah,
according to Palestinian health officials) – were the most
comprehensive in a single night of operations since Israel ended its
three-week war on Gaza in January.

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes Sunday targeted two
weapons-manufacturing facilities and a smuggling tunnel. The attacks were in response to a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Saturday, causing no damage or injuries.

The border between Israel and Gaza has been relatively quiet since
last winter's assault that killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13
Israelis, with just sporadic rocket fire and Israeli retaliatory
attacks focused almost entirely on striking the smuggling tunnels
under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Some 270 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel in 2009,
compared with over 3,300 in 2008 prior to the war, according to
Israeli military figures.

Signs of escalation?

But despite Hamas' Saturday announcement that the rocket attacks will temporarily stop, locals fear this morning's attacks and the more
recent tit-for-tat violence may be reaching last year's pre-war

In September, the Israeli military carried out its first targeted
assassination since the war when an unmanned drone struck a vehicle carrying Islamic Jihad militants near Gaza's eastern border.

The Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed
responsibility for a mortar attack on the Erez crossing with Israel on
Wednesday, the same day a rocket fired from Gaza by a smaller,
Al-Qaeda-style militant group prompted further Israeli air strikes on
the Rafah tunnels Thursday morning.

Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yusuf says his movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, is serious about their unilateral cease-fire, but called Israel's Sunday raids "an invitation to escalate the conflict."

"We have been adhering to our cease-fire for almost a year now," says Mr. Yusuf. "We, and other groups in the Gaza Strip, have made it a priority to keep things calm. Why now this provocation?"

Following Sunday's bombings, the armed wings of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Islamic Jihad denied they made any such agreement to stop firing rockets into Israel, according to the London-based Arabic-language daily, Al Quds Al Arabi.

Yusuf says Palestinian militants have "no interest" in engaging with
Israel militarily. Hamas wants to focus on reconstruction, but he adds
that the cease-fire does mean that they will prevent "responses to
Israeli aggression."

"If the Israelis target us, people will react," says Yusuf. "It's a
normal thing. And we [Hamas] can't stop anyone from fighting back
against Israeli attacks."

Earlier this month, Israel's military intelligence chief,
Major-General Amos Yadlin, announced Hamas had obtained and
successfully tested a rocket that can reach Tel Aviv, Israel's largest
metropolitan city.

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