Gaza: Hamas’s armed wing declared an end to a five-month-old ceasefire on 24 April 2007, firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians over the weekend.
“There is no calm between us and the (Israeli) occupation. The occupation ended the calm,” Abu Ubaida, spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, said after the group resumed rocket fire for the first time since the November truce took hold.
The group said in a statement it had fired up to 30 rockets and 60 mortar rounds from the Gaza Strip “in reaction to the continued Zionist crimes against our people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.It said its rockets targeted Israeli communities and military bases.
The Hamas movement, which leads the Palestinian government, also blamed Israel for the breakdown in the truce but stopped short of formally declaring it over.
Observers say there has been a debate within the Hamas leadership over whether the group has to take a harder line towards Israel, but the Islamist group denies any divisions.
An Israeli army spokesman said at least five rockets were shot at Israel on 24 April, two of which landed near a southern Israeli town. There were no reports of casualties.
Israeli helicopter gunships fired machine guns near the border fence in southern Gaza in an attempt to stop the rocket fire, Palestinian witnesses said.
An Israeli army spokesman said that Israeli helicopters fired at rocket launchers in the southern Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which won a parliamentary election last year, had largely abided by the ceasefire, but other groups continued to shoot makeshift rockets into Israel.
Israeli troops killed nine Palestinians, including five militants, over the weekend, prompting Palestinian calls for reprisals.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said on 24 April that Hamas had not kept the ceasefire and had forced Israel to react militarily. Israeli security sources said Hamas has been providing help to other groups carrying out rocket attacks.
“Our worry was that actually they (Hamas) did not keep the ceasefire they promised. There were attempts to penetrate into the country ... and we didn’t have a choice but to prevent it,” Peres said in a Reuters interview.
Hmas says it has not launched rockets since the truce but last month claimed responsibility for a Gaza border shooting and mortar shell attacks.