JERUSALEM (AP) – The violent Islamic Hamas group Friday formally announced the end of an unwritten, often-breached truce with Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets into Israel.
The Israeli military said troops guarding Israeli farmers in fields adjoining Gaza came under sniper fire from across the border. There were no injuries reported in any of the incidents.
In a statement posted on its Web site, Hamas said Israel had breached agreements by imposing a painful blockade on Gaza, staging military strikes into the densely-populated coastal strip and continuing to hunt down Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
“Since the enemy did not abide with the conditions … we hold the enemy the fully responsible for ending the truce and we confirm that the Palestinian resistance factions headed by Hamas will act,” the statement said.
Israel says the 6-month-old truce, brokered by Egypt, never had an official expiry date, but it is interested in prolonging what it calls “understandings” with Hamas.
The Islamic group, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, is listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, and the United States and much of the international community and Israel does not officially have direct contacts with it.
The truce has increasingly unraveled since early November, when Israeli troops entered Gaza to destroy a tunnel that could have been used in a cross-border raid. In response, Palestinian militants resumed firing rockets at Israel.
On Thursday, Gaza militants fired 11 rockets and six mortar shells toward Israel and Israel staged at least two air strikes against rocket squads.
The day before, at least 20 rockets were fired at Israel wounding two people and causing property damage, the army and police said.
Even before the truce began fraying, Israel did not allow free transfer of goods in and out of Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Since cross-border fighting resumed in November, Israel has kept the borders virtually sealed, allowing in only minimal humanitarian aid.
There were protests against the Gaza blockade in several Mideast states on Friday.
In Lebanon, thousands of supporters of the militant Hezbollah group swarmed Beirut’s southern suburbs, some chanting “Death to America” and “Israel is the enemy of Muslims.”
In the southern city of Sidon, about 1,000 Hezbollah supporters staged a sit-in in the city’s main square, bringing traffic to a halt for about three hours. In Syria, about 3,000 Palestinian refugees also took part in a demonstration at the Sbeineh camp outside of the capital, Damascus.
In Bahrain, security forces battled thousands of protesters who were demanding that Arab governments take action to end the closure.
Witnesses said a number of people, including women and children, were wounded by rubber bullets and others overcome by tear gas. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Mohamad Bin Dina denied rubber bullets were used, and said tear gas was fired when some demonstrators began destroying public property and throwing stones at police.