An Israeli army mobile artillery unit fires a shell towards Gaza Strip, positioned on the field outside the kibbutz of Nahal Oz
Goran Tomasevic  /  Reuters
Israeli mobile artillery fires into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Hamas said Israel's targeting of militants would end chances of renewing a truce due to expire at year's end.
updated 11/2/2005 3:43:10 PM ET 2005-11-02T20:43:10

The militant group Hamas said Wednesday it would not renew an informal 9-month-old truce, which expires at the end of the year, after Israel killed one of its leading activists in an airstrike in Gaza.

The truce was brokered by Egypt, which is expected to invite militant groups, including Hamas, to Cairo in the coming weeks to discuss extending the agreement.

In the past nine months, violence has dropped sharply, and Hamas refrained from carrying out suicide bombings in Israel. But it has repeatedly fired rockets from Gaza at Israeli towns, in what it said was retaliation for Israeli truce violations, such as airstrikes and deadly arrest raids.

On Tuesday, a Hamas activist and a top fugitive from another armed group were killed in an Israeli airstrike in a Gaza refugee camp.

“In the face of this Zionist aggression, no one should dream about the renewal of this truce,” said a Hamas spokesman, Mushir al-Masri. Hamas reserves the right to retaliate for the attack, though it won’t pull out of the truce right now, he said.

Violence continued Wednesday. Israeli troops entered the northern West Bank town of Qabatiyeh and killed Rafat Turkman, an Al Aqsa martyrs’ Brigades militant, as he tried to escape, residents said. The military said soldiers fired back, hitting three gunmen.

After sundown Wednesday, a mortar shell fired from Gaza exploded in Netiv Haasara, just north of the territory, the military said. Channel 2 TV reported a soldier was slightly wounded.

Israel makes demands of Abbas
Israel, meanwhile, increased its demands for a crackdown on militants, saying Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must arrest gunmen, not only disarm them.

In the West Bank, an Israeli soldier was killed during a roundup of militants near Jenin, the army spokesman said. In the same operation, an Islamic Jihad militant involved in a suicide bombing in Israel last week was arrested, the army said.

More than a week of violence, including Israeli assassinations of militants and the suicide bombing, has hurt hopes for a return to peacemaking following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in September.

In an airstrike Tuesday, missiles slammed into a car carrying Hassan Madhoun, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a violent offshoot of Abbas’ Fatah party, who was involved in a bombing at the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Israel had been pressuring Abbas to arrest Madhoun since the beginning of the year, providing the gunman’s address and cellular phone number. At the urging of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also brought up Madhoun with Abbas, Israeli officials have said.

The other man killed in the airstrike was rocket expert Fawzi Abu Kara of Hamas, who the military said was not a target.

Defiance at funerals
At funerals Wednesday for the two militants, gunmen fired in the air and one carried a rocket launcher. Calls for revenge blared from loudspeakers, and chants of “Death to Israel! Yes to resistance!” rose from the crowd.

Militant factions interpret the cease-fire to mean they can respond to individual Israeli attacks while remaining committed to the truce, a position Abbas has dismissed as unacceptable. Since the truce, Hamas and Al Aqsa have refrained from carrying out attacks in Israel, while Islamic Jihad has been responsible for four suicide bombings.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday that operations against militants would stop once Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, decides to disarm them.

“We said very clearly that if we leave Gaza, any (militant) operation would draw a very tough Israeli reaction,” Shalom said. “If Abu Mazen would make the strategic decision that he has refused to make, to dismantle terror organizations and prevent them from carrying out activity from the Gaza Strip, believe me, on that same day all the operations in Gaza will stop.”

Abbas in precarious position
Abbas is locked in a struggle with the militants for control of Gaza and has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to stop attacks against Israel. He has resisted forcibly disarming them, fearing that would provoke civil war.

A Palestinian legislator, Ziad Abu Zayyad, told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday that Israel had rejected a Palestinian Authority proposal that Israel stop targeting militants if they would lay down their guns.

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin said, “We’re not going to pay with Israeli lives while they are experimenting in trying to reach understandings with terror organizations and they continue to carry out terror attacks against us.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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