Hamas Fires Rockets at Israel for First Time Since Cease-fire
By David Rosenberg and Saud Abu Ramadan
April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Hamas, the Islamic movement that leads the coalition ruling the Palestinian Authority, took responsibility for a rocket and mortar attack on Israel today.
It was the first time that Hamas, which last month formed a national unity government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, admitted to firing rockets at Israeli targets though a cease-fire went into effect last November.
Six rockets were launched from Gaza, two of which landed in Israel, as were eight mortar shells, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said by telephone. No one was hurt, he said.
The attacks come amid rising violence. Palestinians say Israeli forces over the past weekend killed as many as eight people in the West Bank, where there is no cease-fire, and one in Gaza. Other Palestinian groups, such as Islamic Jihad, have ignored the truce, prompting Israeli forces to pursue attackers.
Hamas, in a statement issued by its military wing, said it fired 20 Qassam rockets and 75 mortars aimed at Israeli towns and military installations. The attack aims to ``decrease pressure on the northern Gaza Strip,'' which Hamas said Israel is threatening to invade.
Islamic Jihad also claimed responsibility for launching a rocket into Sofa crossing in southeast Gaza.
Since the surge in violence over the weekend, the West Bank has remained quiet. In the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip, internecine violence has welled up since the Palestinian Authority approved a plan last week aimed at restoring law and order.
A Palestinian child was killed and another wounded late yesterday when an explosion rocked their house in the Beach refugee camp in Gaza City, a Palestinian police spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said by telephone. The blast occurred when adult family members belonging to Hamas mishandled an explosive substance, he said.
A day earlier, three Palestinians were killed by unknown gunmen in Gaza City, police said.
Palestinian Interior Minister Hani el-Qawasmeh's security plan aims to impose law and order in Gaza in 100 days and rehabilitate the security forces. Gaza was racked by fighting between Hamas and Fatah loyalists and rival clans before the formation of the unity government last month.
The minister threatened to resign after security chiefs loyal to Abbas's Fatah movement refused to cooperate with him to implement the plan. Information Minster Mustafa al-Barghouti told reporters in Ramallah yesterday, following the weekly cabinet meeting, that el-Qawasmeh will stay in his post.
``We are concerned over the growing level of chaos and crimes,'' he said. ``The Interior Minister insists on carrying out the security plan and calls for removing obstacles in the plan's way.''