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Israeli Air Strikes on Gaza Continue as Palestinians Respond

25 May 2007

Israel has launched another wave of air strikes on the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip, wounding at least 10 people. Palestinian militants responded by firing more rockets across the border. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli aircraft attacked targets of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group across Gaza. The military said the targets included command centers, weapons factories and a money changer. One missile landed near the home of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but he was not hurt.

The army denied that Mr. Haniyeh was the target, but Israel has threatened to assassinate him and other Hamas political and military leaders in response to a wave of Palestinian rocket attacks.

Palestinians have fired more than 160 homemade Qassam rockets at Israel over the past 10 days, and they keep coming despite the air strikes. But Israeli spokesman Mark Regev believes the air campaign is slowly bearing fruit.

"I think the understanding is that by these sort of operations we are limiting and preventing them from launching Qassam rockets against our civilian population," he said.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who shares power in a coalition government led by Hamas, condemned the rocket attacks.

Mr. Abbas described the attacks as "pointless and needless." He said they must be stopped in order reach a ceasefire with Israel.

But Hamas rejected the demand, saying rockets will be fired as long as what it described as "Zionist aggression" continues.

The internal dispute over the rocket attacks underscores the deep differences among Palestinians over how to proceed in the struggle with Israel. The moderates, led by Mr. Abbas, seek a negotiated settlement. But the militants, led by Hamas, believe the only way to achieve a Palestinian state is through jihad, or holy war.

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