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Israel Launches Air Strikes on Gaza Amid New Truce Effort

23 May 2007

Israel has launched fresh air strikes in the Gaza Strip, wounding at least seven Palestinians. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the attacks occurred as Palestinian leaders pushed for a new truce.

Israeli aircraft attacked targets of the Islamic militant group Hamas across Gaza including suspected weapons factories and warehouses and other facilities. Now in its second week, the air campaign is aimed at halting Palestinian rocket attacks. More than 150 rockets have fallen on Israel over the past week, leaving the border community of Sderot a virtual ghost town.

The rockets keep falling despite the air strikes, but Israeli spokeswoman Miri Eisen says a major ground assault on Gaza is not on the table.

"The military themselves are very clear on the fact that even a full-scale invasion would not necessarily stop all of the rocket attacks," said Eisen.

In a bid to end the fighting, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas traveled from the West Bank to Gaza for talks with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. They are trying to restore a Gaza cease-fire with Israel that collapsed last week after a five-month lull in violence.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the current fighting is not in the interest of either side.

"I don't know to who's interest [is it] to undermine the cease-fire?" asked Erekat. "To who's interest [is it] to push back to the cycle of violence and counter-violence?"

The Palestinians have offered to halt the rocket attacks if Israel would extend the Gaza cease-fire to also include the West Bank. But Israel rejects the proposal on grounds that West Bank raids are necessary to prevent suicide bombings in Israeli cities. Palestinian militants say that leaves them no choice but to keep fighting.

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