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Israel Launches Air Strikes on Gaza as Palestinian Factions Call Truce

16 May 2007

Israel has launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks, leaving at least five Palestinian militants dead. At the same time, warring Palestinian factions have called another truce aimed at ending fighting that has killed more than 40 people since Friday. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli aircraft fired missiles at Hamas militants in Gaza, after more than 20 Palestinian rockets were fired across the border. The Israeli missiles hit Hamas military headquarters in the southern town of Rafah and a car carrying gunmen in northern Gaza.

Israeli air strikes have been rare since a ceasefire with Palestinians in Gaza began more than five months ago. But Hamas, the senior party in a Palestinian coalition government, has stepped up rocket attacks in recent days. Israelis in the hard hit town of Sderot accuse their government of abandoning them.

"We're on the front lines of a war," said one Sderot resident. "We have a very strong army, but instead of the army coming to our defense, they're just allowing us to suffer."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel is running out of patience.

"Israel cannot allow its citizens to be harmed," Peretz said. "It will take all the necessary action to defend its sovereignty."

Israel launched its strikes as Hamas and the rival Fatah faction fought fierce gun battles on the streets of Gaza City.

The fighting caused heavy casualties, and Palestinians hunkered down in their homes.

This man on the street said that ordinary people are not from Hamas or Fatah. He said people, and especially children, are terrified.

At nightfall, Hamas and Fatah agreed to a ceasefire, the fourth in as many days. Expectations are low. The previous ceasefires quickly collapsed.

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