Israel Attack, Rockets Shake Gaza Truce

GAZA CITY – An Egyptian-brokered truce between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel in Gaza was shaken Tuesday, June 24, by the Israeli killings of two Palestinians in the West Bank and rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel.

"Calm in Gaza does not mean that we will sit in our seats waiting to be slaughtered one by one," Islamic Jihad said in a statement cited by Reuters.

Israeli forces killed two Palestinians, including a member of Islamic Jihad, early Tuesday in the West Bank town of Nablus.

An Israeli army spokesman said Tareq Abu Ghali, 24, and Iyad Khanfar, a 21-year-old university student, were killed in an "exchange of fire".

"This crime will not pass without punishment and the coming days will be a witness to that," said Islamic Jihad.

Following the killings, Islamic Jihad fighters fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza into the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

One rocket struck a vacant house in Sderot and two others hit the city. A fourth rocket exploded in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

The Israeli government said it will weigh options to the rocket fire.

"This is a blatant violation of the calm, and we will weigh options," an aide quoted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying.

The new escalation raised fears of undermining an Egyptian-brokered truce between the Palestinian factions and Israel.

The truce, which took effect last Thursday, calls for a halt of the rocket fire from Gaza in return for stopping Israeli attacks in Gaza and easing its economic blockade on the strip, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.

Hamas, however, stressed the commitment of the Palestinian factions to the truce.

"Hamas will follow up and address this matter in talks with the factions in the way that will maintain the calm," said spokesman Sami Abu Zhuri.

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza last year, accused Israel of disrupting the atmosphere of calm by its attacks in the West Bank.

"The resistance factions in the West Bank have the full right to respond to this crime," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Nablus Governor Jamal Muheisen called the Israeli attack in the city an "unjustified crime" but said he did not believe it would threaten the Gaza truce.

In the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, President Hosni Mubarak assured Olmert the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world, would remain closed until a deal was reached with Hamas to free an Israeli soldier, Israeli officials said.

Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since June and completely locked down the coastal territory since January, banning food and fuel shipment supplies.

Under the Gaza truce, Israel agreed to ease gradually its economic blockade, but it demanded the Rafah border crossing stay shut until Gilad Shalit goes free.

There was no immediate Egypt comment on the officials’ remarks.

Egypt has been trying to mediate Shalit’s release since shortly after he was captured in an attack in June 2006 to swap with Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails.

(IslamOnline.net and news agencies)

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