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Hamas Declares Ceasefire, But Other Terrorists Launch More Rockets Into Sderot

First Hamas declared it is ready for a week long ceasefire with Israel if the IDF halts its targeting of Hamas. The offer came from Hamas headquarters in Damascus. However, within several hours the Palestinians fire five more Qassam rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot. After winning the election in January, Hamas has formed the official Palestinian government. But its predecessor Fatah, which is headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, and another group the Islamic Jihad claim responsibility for the latest rocketing.

Hamas apparently got Israels message to stop launching Qassam rockets, but other terrorists today fired five more rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot.

A ceasefire may be in the offing between Hamas and Israel after a bloody escalation over the past week. However, the Islamic Jihad and Fatah have sent another salvo of Qassam rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot. One Israeli was injured when two of the rockets smashed into a factory. Two more of the rockets started a brush fire in an open field. At the time, several Israeli Knesset members were meeting with Sderot hunger strikers that demand the government put an end to the rocketing. One of the strikers declared:we dont care which Palestinians launch the rockets, we want them stopped! Israeli helicopters were sent into action shortly after the latest rocket barrage.  

Earlier, Hamas agreed to stop launching Qassam rockets for a week, if Israel stops targeting Hamas. This was reportedly decided by Hamas leader Haled Mashal, who resides in Damascus. Mashal reportedly ordered the military wing Iz adin al Qassam to halt the rocketing of Israeli towns and villages. In reaction, Tzachi Hanegbi, the chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee says Israel could be expected to agree to the ceasefire if Hamas is on the level.

Whats behind the Hamas change of heart after its terrorists joined in the free-for-all rocketing of Israeli population centers adjacent to the Gaza Strip? Simply this: Israel conveyed a grave warning to Hamas that the IDF would launch a massive operation to destroy its infrastructure. Moreover, Hamas officials involved in terror would not be immune. In making this clear, Defense Minister Amir Peretz declared Hamas officials would not be able to hide behind the cover of a position in the Palestinian Authority. As Peretz put it: This did not give them an insurance policy. In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, Peretz went on to say that as of three weeks ago, Hamas has been trying to change the rules of the game. Hamas had secretly participated in the Qassam attacks of Islamic Jihad and the other groups. After winning the election in January and becoming the official Palestinian government, Hamas had refrained from attacking Israel. But apparently feeling the international pressure, Hamas joined in the attacks. After Israel launched its own counter-terror strikes Hamas has proposed a week-long ceasefire. But if Hamas got the message, the other organizations apparently have not.

The latest rocketing of Sderot will increase the pressure on the Israeli government to really take off the gloves. This will be up to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after he returns from his five- day trip to Europe. During his absence, the IDF proposed launching a major military strike after the Palestinians have fired off more than 100 rockets in five days. However, Defense Minister Peretz vetoed the plan. In the Opposition, MK Effy Eitam of the National Union argues that Israel has no choice:

Knesset Member Effy Eitam
David Essing

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