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Palestinians fire rockets into Israel
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17:15, December 24, 2008

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Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday resumed attacks on Israeli border communities with rockets and mortar shells following the death of five Hamas fighters.

In response to the attacks, Israel canceled a brief opening of cargo crossings which was intended to allow humanitarian aid into the sealed-off enclave.

Palestinian officials said Israel will not open Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings as scheduled to allow aid convoys into the impoverished Gaza.

Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Hamas movement, said it fired 17 heavy mortars at Israeli settlements in eastern and northern Gaza Strip since Tuesday night.

"The shelling comes in response to the killing of five of our members in northern and southern Gaza Strip," the brigades said ina statement faxed to the media.

Early Wednesday, two Hamas militants were killed when their explosives went off prematurely in the east of Khan Younis city in southern Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday evening, Israeli forces killed three Hamas gunmen who were planting bombs near the security fence that separates Israel and northern Gaza Strip.

The latest violence is the bloodiest since a six-month ceasefire between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Israel expired on Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, the military wing of the less influential Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for firing seven home-made rockets into the Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon.

Israeli sources said more than 21 rockets and mortar shells landed on Western Negev. There were no reports of casualties.

Israel and the Palestinian militants have violated the Egypt-brokered ceasefire since early November, with Israel launching military operations into Gaza, triggering Palestinian rocket attacks in response.

Israel also restored tight restrictions on Gaza commercial crossings in a bid to deter the Palestinian rocket fire.


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