Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters on Sunday that the organisation had declared an end "to its operations from the Gaza Strip against the Israeli occupation ... which came in response to assaults by the enemy".

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials. Israel resumed air strikes last week after a series of home-made rockets were fired into south Israel, injuring six people.

Since the initial Israeli helicopter gunship attacks, 35 Palestinian men, women and children have been injured and at least three suspected resistance members have been killed.

Tel Aviv had halted its widely condemned aerial bombardment policy in February after Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared a truce.

The violence was the worst since Israel completed its pullout from the Gaza Strip on 12 September after 38 years of occupation.

Palestinian resistance groups claimed the withdrawal, the first from settlements built illegally following the seizure of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, as a military victory.

Hamas attacks to end

Al-Zahar said Hamas would continue to abide by a truce that resistance groups declared in March and would honour until the end of the year by request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

He said the decision to end attacks from Gaza was due to "Hamas's interest to protect the Palestinian people from the oppression of the Zionists" and "to preserve the atmosphere of celebrations at the defeat of the occupation".

Hamas's popularity in Gaza has grown in wake of the pullout and a 4 1/2-year Palestinian uprising.

The Islamic group plans to challenge Abbas's Fatah group in legislative elections next year for the first time.