Hamas vows more attacks after Israeli airstrikes kill 5

Published May 27, 2007

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas hardened its stance on Saturday after a new barrage of Israeli airstrikes killed five militants, saying it would not consider a truce and calling for more attacks on Israel.

The Islamic militant group also warned Israel that if it continued its 10-day air assault, it would threaten the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier seized last June by Hamas-linked militants. Shalit has not been heard from or seen since his capture.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate from the rival Fatah faction, has tried in recent days to revive a cease-fire with Israel. Under his plan, Gaza militants would halt rocket fire for a month to allow for negotiations on a more comprehensive truce that would include the West Bank.

After a meeting late Friday, the militant groups initially asked for 48 hours to consider the proposal and respond. But after the rash of new air attacks Saturday, including five in less than an hour, Hamas called on its fighters to "direct painful strikes at the Zionist enemy." Hamas "will not offer a free truce to the Zionist occupation, " the group said.

"If there is an end to the attacks, we can talk about a truce, " said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the Hamas military wing.

Israel has launched dozens of targeted missile strikes over the past 10 days that have killed 48 Palestinians and damaged many Hamas installations in an attempt to stop Hamas rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli border towns.

Israel said 225 rockets have landed in Israeli towns since May 15, killing one woman and sending thousands of frightened Israeli residents fleeing. Two rockets landed in Israel on Saturday.

In all, Israeli aircraft launched 12 missile strikes Saturday. Before dawn, they struck near the house of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in a Gaza refugee camp, while troops in the West Bank arrested a Hamas Cabinet minister. The army said Haniyeh was not a target.

There was also a rare incident of violence in East Jerusalem late Saturday when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an Israeli security patrol near the separation barrier Israel is erecting along Jerusalem's municipal boundary.

Israeli border police at the scene fired at the attackers, killing both of them. Israeli emergency services said two Israelis were injured and evacuated to hospital.

An offshoot of the violent Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, which is affiliated with Fatah, claimed responsibility for the shooting, according to the Palestinian news Web site Maan.