- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hamas officials said Friday an agreement with Israel on a long-term cease-fire in Gaza could be announced within days, but a new cycle of attacks by both sides strained a temporary truce.

Two rockets and a mortar shell fell fired from Gaza hit southern Israel, the Israeli military said. No one was injured, and no Palestinian group took responsibility for the attacks.

Hours later, Israel retaliated with an airstrike that killed a man and critically wounded another near the Gaza town of Khan Younis, Palestinian security officials said. The dead man was a member of the small, violent Popular Resistance Committees group.

The Israeli military, confirming the strike, said the men were planning an attack on Israel.

The Khan Younis strike was followed by air attacks on what the military said were six weapons-smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. The military said “secondary explosions” were observed at some of the sites, a phrase used to indicate that arms or explosives were stored there. A spokesman said the strikes were in response to the earlier Palestinian attacks.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, staff at a local hospital said a teenage boy was killed by Israeli army fire during a clash between troops and stone-throwing Palestinian youths.

Doctors at Alia hospital named the dead boy as Izzadine Jamal, 14. They did not know if he was among those attacking the Israelis.

The army said dozens of Palestinians hurled rocks at a military guard tower next to an Israeli settlement and a soldier shot the ringleader.

Hebron, the largest city in the West Bank, is divided between Israeli and Palestinian zones of control and clashes are frequent.About 500 Jewish settlers live there among about 170,000 Palestinians.

Rocket fire and shooting incidents along the Gaza-Israel border have persisted since the end of Israel’s devastating offensive against Hamas in the territory. Israel halted the operation on Jan. 18, and Hamas declared a cease-fire later the same day.

Friday’s exchanges came as Hamas officials said talks in Cairo aimed at achieving a long-term truce were close to success.

A Hamas delegation is in the Egyptian capital, and an Israeli envoy has been flying in periodically from Tel Aviv. Egypt is mediating between the two sides because they will not talk directly to each other.

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