GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (Agencies) – The Israeli military says its warplanes have targeted four smuggling tunnels and a weapons depot in Gaza.
The military says the strikes late Friday came in response to rocket fire from Gaza at southern Israel. Gaza militants fired two rockets earlier Friday, but caused no damage or injuries.
The latest cross-border exchange came just days before Israel’s general election Tuesday in which hardline leader Benjamin Netanyahu is favored to win.
Sporadic rocket fire and airstrikes have accompanied indirect negotiations between
Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers on the terms of a cease-fire. Israel wants guarantees that weapons smuggling into Gaza will be halted.
Hamas seeks an end to a 20-month border blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.
In other news, Khalid Mishal, the exiled leader of Hamas, said yesterday that Israel had still not given the necessary undertakings for a lasting truce.
“The enemy gave opaque and incomplete answers through Egypt that do not amount to a lifting of the blockade,” Mishal said, referring to the tight restrictions on Gaza border crossings that Israel has imposed since the Islamists seized the Palestinian territory in 2007.
“The enemy has yet to offer a lifting of the blockade and a reopening of the border crossings. They have given no guarantee and we will not agree to any truce except in exchange for a lifting of the blockade and a reopening of the crossings.”
Mishal was speaking at a rally in the Syrian capital to celebrate what Hamas regards as its victory in the 22-day war in Gaza that ended with unilateral ceasefires by both sides on January 18.
Mishal, whose speech was aired on Syrian state television, told more than 1,000 supporters that Hamas emerged “victorious” from Israel’s deadly offensive that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians.
“It is the first real war that the Palestinians won,” he said.
Mishal also slammed anew the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is headed by his rival Mahmud Abbas, who is also president of the Palestinian Authority, saying its “institutions have lost their legitimacy years ago.”
Last week Mishal said the PLO — the historic Palestinian umbrella that does not include Hamas and the radical Islamic Jihad — had become obsolete and called for “a new, national authority.”
“Institutions that are opposed to resistance … are illegal,” Mishal told Friday’s crowds in Damascus.
“How much longer must we wait for you to reform the PLO and to allow in Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” Mishal said.
His remarks put the spotlight again on the protracted Hamas-Fatah feud, which has prevailed since the Islamists seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after ferocious street battles with Abbas loyalists.
Last Sunday, in a reference to Mishal, Abbas ruled out talks with any group tht does recognize the PLO’s legitimacy.