Sun, Jun 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Hamas calls off ceasefire with Israel


The ruling Hamas group fired a barrage of homemade rockets at Israel yesterday, hours after calling off a truce with Israel in anger over an artillery attack that killed seven civilians in Gaza.

The militants' announcement to call off the ceasefire, reached in February last year, raised the prospect of a renewed campaign of deadly suicide bombings and a wave of bloodshed.

Despite Israel's attacks and Hamas pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold off on a planned referendum on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Abbas declared he would hold the poll on July 26.

In the hours before the Hamas announcement, new violence erupted between gunmen loyal to Abbas and Hamas' militia.

Hamas also claimed responsibility yesterday for firing at Israel at least 15 rockets, as well as a barrage of mortar bombs. The attacks caused no casualties.

"The earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or their luggage," the Hamas militants said in a leaflet.

Israel's artillery attack on Friday was part of a wider aerial and artillery bombardment of suspected Palestinian rocket-launching sites that killed a total of 10 people, three of them militants.

Friday's artillery attack tore into a seaside picnic in Gaza, killing seven civilians, and leading Abbas to condemn the attack as a "genocidal crime."

He called for international intervention and declared a three-day period of mourning.

In Beit Lahiya, thousands of Palestinians gathered to attend the funeral procession of the seven people killed by Israel on Friday.

Chanting "revenge, revenge" and "destroy Israel, destroy America," the mourners made their way through the town's narrow streets to the families' homes, where weeping women reached to touch the bodies of the dead.

Israel said its attacks were aimed at areas that Palestinian militants used to fire homemade rockets at Israel.

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