Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Palestinians launch rockets into Israel

ACTION MAN Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh joined hundreds of Hamas volunteers in cleaning the streets of Gaza City as he urged civil servants not to go on strike

AGENCIES , GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP AND JERUSALEM

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya takes part in Hamas' cleanliness day in Gaza City yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Palestinian militants fired homemade rockets into Israel yesterday, defying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' calls to halt the attacks.

The Israeli army said two or three rockets fell in the Negev desert in southern Israel, after five hit Israeli territory on Thursday. No injuries were reported either day.

Earlier this week, Abbas criticized Palestinian militants for continuing to fire rockets at Israeli border communities, saying the attacks give Israel an excuse to strike Gaza.

"What is happening in Gaza as a result of rockets fired in vain must stop right now because there is no national interest in this continuing,'' Abbas said on Wednesday.

Dozens of Gazans have been killed and many more injured in recent months, he said.

"For what?'' Abbas said.

Abbas has made similar appeals in the past, only to be rebuffed by militants.

There were no claims of responsibility for yesterday's attacks.

The rocket fire on Thursday by Islamic Jihad militants came shortly after Israeli troops withdrew from the outskirts of Gaza City on Thursday, ending a five-day operation that Palestinians said left 20 people dead and heavily damaged houses, streets and farms. The operation was aimed at finding tunnels and explosives.

The army also dropped pamphlets over Gaza City, warning people that pedestrian and commercial crossings leading out of Gaza would remain closed as long as militants tried to attack them.

Palestinian hospital officials said on Thursday that 15 militants and five civilians died in the airstrikes and gunbattles that began late on Saturday in Shajaiyeh.

After the last troops withdrew shortly after dawn, hundreds of people poured out of homes in Shajaiyeh and nearby neighborhoods to inspect the damage the army left behind. Many houses were riddled by hundreds of bullets fired by the tanks' machine guns.

Water and sewage pipes were burst, and electrical lines were torn down.

Throughout Gaza City, the smell of festering garbage, dead animals and rancid smoke was in the air yesterday, the result of another strike by civil servants to force the Hamas-led government to pay them long overdue salaries.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas took to the streets of the city yesterday morning with a broom, sweeping up together with hundreds of Hamas volunteers.

Municipal workers, mainly responsible for garbage collection, water treatment, and sewage processing, went on strike in Gaza City and two other southern towns three days ago, although some, who received part-payment of their wages on Thursday, joined Haniyeh in yesterday's symbolic cleanup.

Civil servants demanding wages largely unpaid since March plan to stop work as of today, threatening to paralyze all government bodies except for hospitals and border crossings.

Haniyeh yesterday urged workers to scrap plans for an open-ended strike, saying the resulting chaos would only benefit Israel.

"I [especially] urge teachers and students to go to their schools to begin the new school year," he said. "We are living in difficult conditions and must be united."

In other developments, a group of Israeli reserve troops have created a mock graveyard for all soldiers killed in Lebanon outside the office of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to protest his handling of the war with Hezbollah.

The protest is one of the most recent displays of public frustration with Israeli political and military leaders over the army's failure to crush the Lebanese guerrilla group.

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