Hamas pleads with Israel for end to cross-border rocket attacks

Click to follow

A senior member of Gaza's ruling Hamas movement made a rare public appeal yesterday for an end to escalating cross-border fighting, telling the state-run Israel Radio in fluent Hebrew that Hamas is ready to stop its rocket fire if Israel ends attacks on Gaza. Hamas' deputy foreign minister, Ghazi Hamad, said: "We are interested in calm but want the Israeli military to stop its operations."

He spoke shortly after Palestinian militants in Gaza fired several mortar shells and rockets into southern Israel. Israeli leaders sent mixed messages. The defence minister, Ehud Barak, said if militants in Gaza cease their attacks, so would Israel.

But the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a more combative tack. "If the attacks on Israeli citizens and soldiers continue, the response will be far harsher than it has been," he told his cabinet.

The violence escalated a week ago when an Israeli airstrike killed three Hamas militants who Israel said were planning a cross-border kidnapping. On Thursday, Hamas militants fired a guided anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, wounding the two people on board, including a teenage boy. Since Thursday, Palestinians have fired more than 120 rockets and mortars, prompting a series of Israeli reprisals that have killed 19 Palestinians, including six civilians, and wounded 65 others.