Israeli airstrike breaks brief Israel-Gaza cease-fire

An Israeli airstrike on two Palestinian fighters has broken a tenuous and brief Israel-Gaza cease-fire set up after Saturday clashes left one Israeli and nine Palestinian fighters dead.

Ariel Schalit/AP
An Ultra orthodox man uses a phone to take photographs at a site were a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit Ashdod, southern Israel, Saturday. Israeli aircraft struck at Palestinian militants on Saturday who responded with a volley of rockets which rained on southern Israeli towns, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Seven militants were killed while the Israelis reported several civilians injured. A cease-fire has held since the violence ended, Saturday.

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An Israeli airstrike on two Palestinian fighters in Gaza Sunday broke the hope that a cease-fire would be brokered to end a weekend exchange of rockets and airstrikes that killed one Israeli civilian and ten Palestinian militants.

Egypt was working for a truce to end the worst violence between Gaza and Israel in more than two months.

The exchange of fire comes less than two weeks after after Hamas, which rules Gaza, released captured Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit in return for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The last major violence came when Israel launched airstrikes at Gaza in August following an attack on Israelis near the border with Israel.

The Associated Press reports that Israeli jets launched a missile on Palestinian militants Sunday afternoon, breaking the quiet that had held since morning. Israel said the two men were preparing to launch a rocket into Israel. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed the two men killed as members, according to the AP.

The strike is likely to draw retaliation from Gazan militants.

Around noon Sunday, Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for most of the rocket fire from Gaza over the weekend, said it would abide by a truce brokered by Egypt, as long as Israel stops airstrikes, reports Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

The weekend barrage began when an Israeli airstrike Saturday struck a training cell of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing that Israel said was responsible for launching a rocket at Israel last week, reports Bloomberg. Gaza militants retaliated with dozens of rockets, and Israel also launched other airstrikes.

Ma’an reports that the Israeli air strike on the Islamic Jihad training base in southern Gaza killed five senior operatives. Islamic Jihad said one of them was Ahmed Al Sheikh Khalil, and that he and his fellow fighters were responsible for building bombs and rockets. Four other fighters from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing were killed in separate airstrikes, reports Ma’an.

The Palestinian rockets fired at Israel killed an Israeli man in Ashdod, reports the Jerusalem Post. Four people were also wounded, and schools in Ashdod, Beersheba, and Kiryat Malachi were closed Sunday as a precaution.

The other Israeli airstrikes, according to the Israeli military, targeted a tunnel and three rocket launch sites in northern Gaza, and two “centers of militant activity” in southern Gaza, reports the Post.

Islamic Jihad and two other Palestinian factions claimed responsibility for the rockets. The Associated Press reports that Gaza militants were emboldened to “remove their masks and emerge from their hideouts” after the prisoner exchange.

Though Hamas was not behind the attacks, Israel holds Hamas responsible for any fire coming from Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Hamas is not eager for escalation and will likely try to end the fighting, for several reasons: “the increasingly close relationship with Egypt's provisional government and the fear that prolonged fighting would delay the second phase of the Shalit deal, in which an additional 550 Palestinian prisoners are to be released.”

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