Israel's army radio reported that Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian intelligence chief, was due in Israel next week to try to advance truce efforts.

Rocket attacks

The Islamic Jihad group fired more than one dozen rockets from the Gaza Strip early on Thursday but they caused little damage and no injuries.
 
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"The Israeli air force raid targeted a rocket launch that was ready to fire in the Beit Hanoun area in the northern Gaza Strip," an Israeli army spokesman said.

"Two of the rockets exploded at Sderot, damaging a building, but without injuring anybody."
 
Palestinian hospital officials said no one was hurt in the Beit Hanoun air raid.
 
Thursday's violence was preceded by the slayings of five Palestinian fighters in the West Bank.
 
Palestinian security officials said Wednesday's dead included Mohammed Shahada, 48, a senior leader in the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, and Ahmed al-Balbul, 48, a senior official in al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group loosely tied to Fatah.
 
Two others were identified as Imad al-Kamel and Eissa Marzuk, both from the Islamic Jihad.

Bethlehem burials
 
Shahada and the others were buried in Bethlehem on Thursday. Their bodies were wrapped in Hezbollah flags, and dozens of mourners chanted support for the Lebanese Shia group.
 
They were killed by undercover Israeli units in the middle of Bethlehem just after they had finished dinner in one of the city's restaurants.

Four Islamic Jihad killed in Bethlehem were
 buried on Thursday [AFP]
"Yesterday in Bethlehem we demonstrated once again that the state of Israel will continue to pursue and strike all murderers with Jewish blood on their hands," Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, said on Thursday.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who suspended talks with Israel after clashes in recent weeks led to the deaths of more than 120 Palestinians, condemned Israel's "ugly crime" in Bethlehem.

"The Palestinian Authority holds the government of Israel responsible for all the consequences resulting from these brutal crimes against our people," he said in a statement.

In Gaza, about 3,000 Palestinians marched to protest aganst the Israeli raid in Bethlehem, and Hamas blamed Israel for the renewed violence.
 
Abu Obeid, a Hamas spokesman, threatened retaliation against "all of the Zionist colonies and towns around Gaza".
 
Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli forces killed Saleh Karkour, 27, another Islamic Jihad activist, in Saida, a village near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank.
 
Al Jazeera boycott
 
In other news, Israel decided to boycott Al Jazeera over what it called biased coverage of events in the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli radio station.
 
The Israeli foreign ministry was reportedly sending a letter to Al Jazeera intimating its decision, but there was no official confirmation.
 
"A state that respects the freedom of expression or claims that it is democratic should not limit the movement of press teams"

Walid al-Umari,
Al Jazeera's Palestine bureau chief
Walid al-Umari, Al Jazeera's Palestine bureau chief, said the decision was part of a campaign against the channel, backed by Israel's foreign ministry.
 
"A state that respects the freedom of expression or claims that it is democratic should not limit the movement of press teams," he said.
 
"I dare any Israeli official to bring up what they call incitement or lies reported by Al Jazeera. What we reported were real facts on the ground."
 
Israeli officials will stop giving interviews to Al Jazeera's correspondents, who will also not be allowed to enter government departments, the radio station said.
 
In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Al Jazeera said it was very surprised to hear the Israeli radio broadcast, and that it had not received any formal communications from the Israeli government.
 
Al Jazeera reiterated that it has always endeavoured to cover the news in a fair, balanced and professional manner, and will continue to report from all over the world in accordance with the highest journalistic standards.