- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli forces entered a northern Gaza town early yesterday and seized a local Hamas leader from his home during heavy fighting with Palestinian gunmen, Hamas militants and a Palestinian health official said. The wanted man’s 14-year-old daughter was killed in the clashes.

The fighting erupted in the town of Beit Lahiya, near the border with Israel. The army confirmed the raid, saying its forces exchanged fire with Palestinian militants.

The apparent target of the Israeli raid was Talat Hassan Marouf, a local Hamas leader. The fighting took place around his house, and Israeli forces withdrew after detaining him, said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the Hamas military wing.

The military said Israeli troops came under fire from inside the house, where Mr. Marouf’s family was at the time.

His 14-year old daughter, Mariam, was killed by shrapnel from heavy machine guns, said Dr. Moawiya Hassanain, a Palestinian Health Ministry official. The girl’s mother was injured in the clashes.

Nine other Palestinians, including seven gunmen, also were wounded in the fighting, said Dr. Hassanain. Three of the gunmen were in critical condition, he said.

The fighting began before dawn when an Israeli undercover force entered an area of northern Gaza near the border with Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants fired at the force, using machine guns, mortars and homemade bombs, Hamas militants said.

A dozen Israeli tanks and aircraft provided cover during the clashes, the army said. It said its aircraft launched two missile strikes against the militants. The sound of explosions could be heard across northern Gaza.

Despite the renewed violence, Egypt is making another attempt to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel. The deal would include a prisoner swap and the opening of Gaza border crossings. The territory has been virtually sealed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas’ violent takeover in June.

The chief of Hamas said yesterday that the militant group would accept the Egyptian proposal, but added that it would be a “tactic” in the group’s struggle with the Jewish state.

Khalid Mashaal, the Damascus-based Hamas leader, said in an interview with Al Jazeera television his group was ready to cooperate but added: “It is a tactic in conducting the struggle. … It is normal for any resistance … to sometimes escalate, other times retreat a bit. … Hamas is known for that. In 2003, there was a cease-fire, and then the operations were resumed.”

He warned of an explosion of violence in Gaza if Israel rejects the proposed six-month truce.

Israel, which is skeptical of the offer, is to respond in coming days to the proposal.

Yesterday, a former Israeli deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, told Israel Radio the government should not accept a truce with Hamas. He said anything that prolongs Hamas rule in Gaza, including a cease-fire, runs counter to Israel’s interests.

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