The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Truce torn after blood on beach

Gaza, June 10 (Reuters): Hamas today fired rockets at Israel, formally ending a 16-month-old truce, after seven Palestinians on a Gaza beach were killed by Israeli shelling.

Thousands of Palestinian mourners wept with 7-year-old Huda Ghalya as she kneeled to kiss her dead father before he, her mother and three siblings were buried in northern Gaza.

The five, including a 4-month-old, a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old, were among the seven killed during a seaside outing yesterday after Israeli gunboats shelled the area to curb cross-border rocket fire. Twenty people were wounded.

“Please do not leave me alone,” said Huda, who had been swimming in the Mediterranean when the blast tore up the beach.

A spokesman for Hamas’s Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades said they had resumed attacks against Israel in response to the shelling, firing 11 rockets and 12 mortar bombs.

The army said it identified four impacts inside Israel, which caused no casualties or damage.

Israeli defence minister Amir Peretz hinted in televised remarks Israel might renew an assassination policy against Hamas leaders if the group continued the attacks.

With peacemaking now an even more remote prospect, a senior official said President Mahmoud Abbas would announce that he was ordering a referendum on a proposal for Palestinian statehood, opposed by Hamas, that implicitly recognises Israel.

The manifesto penned by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails is at the heart of Abbas’s power struggle with Hamas, an Islamic militant group dedicated to Israel’s destruction that came to power after a January election.

Israel Radio said Peretz had sent a message to Abbas voicing “deep regret at the deaths of innocent people”.

Israel’s army said one of its shells may have hit the beach by accident, but it was still investigating. The radio reported Peretz would receive the results of the probe later in the day.

“One possibility is that it is one of our shells. We can say for certain that five out of six of the shells we fired in the area fell where we wanted them to,” Brigadier-General Yair Kochavi told the army radio.

“The other possibility... is that we’re talking about an unexploded shell in place for weeks or months and they played with it,” said Kochavi, an army commander.

The Izz el-Deen al-Qassam spokesman said today’s rocket attacks were in response to “Zionist crimes and the killings of civilians in Gaza”.

Washington said Israeli artillery fire was responsible for the bloodshed on the beach, but also called on the Palestinian authority “to prevent all acts of terrorism, including the firing of missiles and rockets from Gaza”.

Hamas had abstained from striking in Israel since a 2005 truce. Israel said the group has been helping other militant factions to carry out rocket launchings from Gaza, the territory Israel quit last year.

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