Israel attacks Hamas facilities

Palestinian death toll mounts as Israel steps up Gaza offensive.

     Wasfi Kabha was arrested at
    his West Bank home [AFP]
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    "Hamas is trying to draw us into their civil war"

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    The Israeli air raids included one on the Shati refugee camp, close to the home of Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister and senior Hamas leader.
    On Saturday night, Israeli air raids were made on Hamas security posts in the northern town of Jabalya and the southern town of Rafah, but no casualties were reported.

    Ephraim Sneh, Israel's deputy defence minister, told Al Jazeera: "We do not make a distinction between the political leadership of Hamas and the military wing of the same movement. The basis, the fundament, the ideology and the policy of this movement is a terrorist one."
    Dozens held

    The Palestinian minister of state's detention came after 33 Hamas political leaders were arrested on Thursday.
    Kabha is the second Hamas member of the unity cabinet to be arrested by Israeli forces.
    Nasser Shaer, the education minister, was among those seized earlier in the week.

    Israel has been holding 40 Palestinian politicians from Hamas rounded up over the past year.

    "We have urged the US and the EU to intervene to release the ministers and lawmakers," Saeb Erekat, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said.
    "This step does not help to achieve calm."
    In a rare appearance, Abu Obeida al-Jarrah, the chief commander of the Executive Force, said Israel's targeting of its bases was "a declaration of war" in co-ordination with its "agents" in Gaza Strip.
    Hamas has accused members of its rival Fatah of serving Israel's interests.

    Haniya 'not a target'

    Saturday was the second consecutive day that locations around Haniya's home had been struck but the Israeli military denied that Haniya himself was a target.

    "Targeting positions in Shati refugee camp where Haniya lives is a political message ... that he is a potential target if Hamas does not stop firing rockets," Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said.

    The attacks came after a series of strikes on Friday killed two Hamas activists and wounded three others in the eastern sector of Gaza City.

    Israel says the military campaign and arrests are a response to the hundreds of makeshift rockets that have been fired into Israel by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip.

    At least five rockets hit southern Israel on Saturday, causing no injuries, the Israeli army said.

    Ceasefire talks

    In other news, a Fatah delegation is heading to Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis.
    Egyptian officials will meet representatives from Hamas separately.

    The talks in Cairo come after Abbas, the leader of Fatah, met Hamas politicians on Friday.
    The president wants a halt to rocket attacks on Israel for a month to allow Palestinians to discuss a truce with Israel, and each other.

    "This mutual truce would be observed at first for one month in the Gaza Strip, then afterwards in the West Bank," Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman, said after the meeting.

    The armed groups denied that any commitments had been made, saying only that they were weighing the trial Gaza truce proposal.

    Taha said his organisation would "study the proposal".

    Abdel-Hakim Awad, a spokesman for Abbas's Fatah faction, said: "The next 48 hours will be decisive for determining which way the factions are going, and it will depend on Israel and whether it wants to stop its aggression."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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