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Gaza rockets strain Israel-Hamas truce

Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad fired rockets on Israel Tuesday in retaliation for an Israeli strike on its members in the West Bank.

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The cross-border attack highlighted the tensions between Hamas and other Palestinian factions over the cease-fire. In agreeing to the tahdiyeh, Hamas conceded to Israel's insistence that the truce apply only to the Gaza Strip rather than including the West Bank as it had previously demanded.

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The Qassam strike served as a reminder from Islamic Jihad that it doesn't consider itself bound by the cease-fire's distinction between the two Palestinian territories.

Mr. Sarraj accused Israel of pressuring Hamas and deliberately undermining the cease-fire by targeting Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank: "They did what they did in order to provoke a reaction" from Islamic Jihad.

Analysts said that the damage from attack wasn't extensive enough for Israel to justify abandoning the cease-fire at such an early date. Israel wants to see if Hamas will make good on its commitment to enforce the truce on other armed factions.

"There are no huge domestic demands for responding because no one was hurt, and there's a logic in waiting," says Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. "The logic is to reestablish stability and get Sderot quiet again. The odds are still very small and this just reinforces that."

Israel is also keen to leverage the calm to secure the release of soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was captured from the Gaza border two years ago and has been held in the Palestinian territory ever since.

Following the meetings with Mr. Mubarak Tuesday, Israeli officials said they received assurances that Egypt would not agree to the reopening of the Rafah civilian crossing with Gaza until Israel and Hamas conclude a prisoner swap.

Egyptian presidential spokesman Sulieman Awad called the meetings "open" and "transparent." "We are ready and willing to continue efforts to stabilize the situation and push ahead – but it requires flexibility" on both sides, he said.

Israel will send its chief negotiator to Egypt before the end of the week to restart intense negotiations on the prisoner swap.

The government has come under harsh criticism for failing to secure Corporal Shalit's release as part of the original cease-fire agreement. The Shalit family even challenged the truce in Israel's Supreme Court, which declined to intervene.

Therein lies another potential Achilles' heel of the agreement: While Israel insists that freeing Shalit is an integral part of the deal, Hamas has insisted that the Shalit issue was not part of the agreement.

"We cannot move to anything close to normalization on the crossings without first releasing Gilad Shalit," says Mr. Regev. "That is a prerequisite to anything close to the normal functioning of the crossings."

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