Israeli missiles slam into five Hamas targets

/ Source: The Associated Press

Israel fired missiles at five Hamas targets just minutes apart Saturday, killing four people just hours after Gaza militants floated the idea of halting rocket fire on Israeli border towns if Israel ends its 10-day-old air campaign.

The latest strikes, including one on a key Hamas compound, brought to 11 the number of targeted missile attacks Saturday. Before dawn, aircraft also struck near the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in a Gaza refugee camp, while troops in the West Bank arrested a Hamas Cabinet minister.

Israel’s offensive is aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli border towns.

Since last week, dozens of targeted missile strikes have killed nearly 50 Palestinians and damaged many Hamas installations. Israel said some 225 rockets have landed in Israeli towns since May 15, killing one woman and sending thousands of frightened Israeli residents fleeing. One rocket landed in Israel on Saturday.

Any hope left for truce deal?
Meanwhile, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was trying to revive a truce with Israel. Under his plan, Gaza militants would halt rocket fire for a month to allow for negotiations on a more comprehensive cease-fire that would include the West Bank.

After a meeting late Friday, the factions asked for 48 hours to respond to the proposal. Abbas has been in talks with them since Tuesday.

“We discussed halting rockets in return for Israel not to conduct air, sea and land attacks, and then to include the West Bank in the truce,” Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman, said early Saturday.

“There are no Israeli guarantees, which is a problem, because Israel can attack the West Bank during that period, and we don’t want a one-sided truce.”

Responses came in rapid succession
Israel’s response came around midday Saturday. In quick succession, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at five Hamas installations across Gaza. In Gaza City, missiles hit one of the group’s main compounds, killing four people and wounding four, one seriously. Another person was wounded in an air attack in southern Gaza.

Earlier Saturday, two missiles hit close to Haniyeh’s house in the Shati refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City. One landed around 100 yards away and the other 300 yards away, hitting trailers used by Haniyeh’s bodyguards.

The missiles left two large craters, shattered surrounding windows and cut electricity in they crowded camp. No injuries were reported.

The army confirmed the Shati strikes but said Haniyeh was not a target. However, earlier this week, Israel’s deputy defense minister had warned that none of the Hamas leaders are immune.

Haniyeh stayed away from public prayers on Friday. He issued a statement after the second strike saying the air strikes in Gaza are a sign of Israel’s “political and security crisis.”

“This campaign will fail because of the steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” Haniyeh said.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested Cabinet minister Wasfi Kabaha, confiscating his computer and many of his documents. The arrest came two days after a sweep in which more than 30 Hamas politicians, legislators and local council members were arrested, including the education minister.