GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The militant Hamas rulers of Gaza appealed to other armed Palestinian groups in the territory Tuesday to halt a recent spike in violence, fearing an all-out Israeli invasion in response.
In the latest incident, a missile fired by an Israeli aircraft Tuesday killed an Islamic Jihad militant who was riding a motorcycle in southern Gaza, the Israeli military said. The violent group vowed revenge "at the right time." The military said the militant was planning a major attack on Israel. During the two years since Israel's bruising invasion of Gaza to stop daily rocket attacks, airstrikes aimed at individual militants have been rare.
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Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu called on militant Gaza factions to stop firing rockets at Israel and refrain from other attacks on the border as well. He said a cease fire that has been in place for two years serves Palestinian interests and prevents Israeli counterstrikes.
Hamas has made similar appeals for calm in the past few weeks, but rocket fire and Israeli retaliation have continued. The Islamic militant group appears concerned about triggering another large-scale Israeli military campaign similar to a three-week operation two years ago that killed about 1,400 Palestinians — many of them civilians — and caused considerable damage in the impoverished territory.
Hamas has largely kept a cease-fire since the Gaza war. But other militants sporadically fire rockets at Israel, prompting Israeli reprisals, and border clashes still erupt. Israel holds the Hamas rulers responsible for all violence from Gaza, though Hamas claims that smaller splinter groups are behind most of the rocket fire.
Israel routinely retaliates for Palestinian rocket attacks with airstrikes at militant facilities in Gaza and smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel
Violence has increased in recent days.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas to stop the violence. "I think they will make a terrible mistake to test our will to defend our people," he said Tuesday. "I think they will make a terrible, terrible mistake."
At his annual news conference for the foreign press, Netanyahu charged that Palestinians are avoiding peace talks.
"You want to negotiate peace, sit down and negotiate," he said. "There is no other way to achieve peace."
Netanyahu, who heads a hawkish government, insisted that his partners would not prevent a peace accord. Also, he said, "I believe that if I bring a peace agreement ... I will bring the support of the Israeli public." He added, "I'm the only prime minister who can deliver that. But the Palestinians are walking away from that."
Palestinians have said they will not resume peace talks unless Israel halts construction in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem, lands the Palestinians claim for a state.
Netanyahu said that Israel must maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley, the eastern edge of the West Bank. Palestinians oppose that. Netanyahu said that extremists took over south Lebanon and Gaza after Israel withdrew, and "we need to have some safeguards that we don't repeat this a third time."
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