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Gaza rocket hits Israel, damages cars

 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 20...
 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, second from right, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak attend th...
 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 2009. General elections in Israel are scheduled ...
 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 20...
 Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 2009. General elections in Israel are scheduled...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 20...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, second from right, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak attend th...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 2009. General elections in Israel are scheduled ...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 20...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday Feb. 8, 2009. General elections in Israel are scheduled...

A rocket fired by Palestinian militants struck southern Israel on Sunday, violating an informal truce even as Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers appeared to be moving closer to cementing a long-term cease-fire.
The Gaza Strip's strongman was in Syria, consulting with his Hamas bosses about the truce talks, while Israel's defense minister warned Israelis they would have to pay a painful price as part of any deal. The flurry of activity came just two days before Israelis elect a new government expected to take a harder line in talks with the Palestinians.
Israel unilaterally ended a blistering, three-week offensive in Gaza, meant to halt years of rocket fire on southern Israeli communities, on Jan. 18. Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the war, and 13 Israelis also died, and vast areas of Gaza were destroyed or heavily damaged. Hamas announced its own cease-fire the same day.
While Egypt has been trying to broker a long-term cease-fire, sporadic violence has persisted. No injuries were reported in the rocket attack on the Nir Am communal farm, but one car was set ablaze and several others were damaged by shrapnel, the military said.
With Israeli elections approaching Tuesday, both sides appeared to be racing to reach some sort of arrangement. Polls show that Israel's next government would be much more hawkish than the current coalition, lending added urgency to seal a deal.
Israel wants militants to halt their attacks, end arms smuggling into Gaza and release an Israeli soldier Hamas has held captive for more than 2 1/2 years.
Hamas wants an end to Israel's economic blockade of Gaza, which has severely restricted the movement of goods in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized power in June 2007. It also has demanded the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in return for the soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Hundreds of the prisoners have been involved in deadly attacks on Israel and their release would likely generate unease if not outright controversy.
Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas' Gaza strongman, was in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Sunday to discuss truce prospects with the group's exiled leadership. Israel allowed Zahar, who had been in hiding since the Israeli offensive, to leave Gaza on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters in Israel, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was doing his utmost to bring Schalit home and warned that Israel would have to pay a "heavy" price.
"We're not talking about hocus-pocus in which we roll the dice and get Gilad Schalit in return for a nice smile or a gesture," he said. "In the end, attached to it is a heavy and painful price that we'll have to decide on."
In a separate radio interview, Barak said he did not think Schalit would be home in time for Israel's parliamentary election on Tuesday, but hoped he would be freed by the time the current government's tenure ends in several weeks.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to lower expectations, saying media reports in recent days of an impending release were "overblown and damaging."


Updated : 2021-10-17 03:30 GMT+08:00