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Army: Rocket fired from Gaza crashes into school - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s military said a rocket fired from Gaza crashed into a school in the southern Israeli coastal town of Ashkelon on Saturday.

An army spokesman, who spoke anonymously according to military regulations, said the school was closed, averting injuries. Another rocket fired on Saturday morning crashed into an open field close to Ashkelon, 10 miles from Gaza. There were no claims of responsibility by Palestinians.

The rocket fire highlighted the fragility of a truce between Israel and Gaza’s rulers militant group Hamas. The truce, separately called by Israel and Hamas, ended a punishing three-week military assault in the coastal territory last month.

The army says Palestinian militants have launched over a hundred rockets at Israel since then. Israel has since fired powerful missiles at smuggling tunnels that crisscross Gaza’s border with Egypt.

International and regional diplomats are currently involved in efforts to try cement the truce and help rebuild Gaza.

On Saturday, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The meeting came after he toured the Gaza Strip on Friday, the highest ranking European official to visit the territory since it was overrun by Hamas in June 2007.

Solana did not meet with Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, boycotted internationally as a terror group.

On Monday, international donors will meet in Egypt for a conference on Gaza’s reconstruction. The Palestinians are seeking $2.8 billion dollars.

U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attend the conference and to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials. But Diplomatic efforts are complicated by a host of obstacles.

Donors will not pay money to Gaza’s Hamas rulers to rebuild homes and infrastructure smashed in Israel’s assault of the territory. But the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority has no presence in Gaza since Hamas seized power there in 2007.

“The mechanism used to deploy (donor) money will be to send it to the Palestinian Authority,” Solana said on Saturday.

Egypt is overseeing reconciliation talks that would allow Palestinian Authority officials to return to Gaza. But previous reconciliation talks have failed.

Egyptian diplomats are also mediating talks between Israel and Hamas officials over the fate of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

Israel says it wont open its border crossings with Gaza to normal trade until Hamas releases Schalit, seized in June 2006. That means even if donors wire over rebuilding funds, Palestinians wont be able to purchase cement or steel. Meanwhile, Israel is edging toward a narrow government of right-wing hawks and religious parties after Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu failed to persuade his moderate rival, Tzipi Livni on Friday to join him in a wide coalition.

Livni refuses to sign up unless Netanyahu openly endorses the vision of dividing the land into separate Jewish and Palestinian states.

Without Livni, Netanyahu may be headed for tense relations with the new U.S. administration, which has signaled interest in trying to push forward Mideast peace efforts.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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