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Hamas offers to renew cease-fire with Israel



GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The Hamas-led government offered to renew its cease-fire with Israel on Thursday if the Jewish state halts what it calls "aggression" against Palestinians, a spokesman for the Islamic militant group said.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad's remarks are an apparent signal that the Palestinian ruling party is willing to try to help end rocket attacks on Israel.

Hamad said that Hamas is ready to discuss a possible truce with other Palestinian factions that would stop the firing of rockets into Israel.

"We are interested in a cease-fire everywhere. We want to end all operations if the Israeli side is interested in doing so," Hamad told Israel radio before later repeating similar comments on CNN.

If Hamas renews the cease-fire and manages to persuade other Palestinian militant groups to halt the rocket fire, it would reduce the spiraling violence that has plagued the region since Israel pulled out of Gaza last summer.

Earlier Thursday, Palestinians fired five Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza, lightly wounding one person, the Israel Defense Forces said. Two of the rockets landed inside Sderot, an Israeli town in the Negev Desert.

Truce ends after beach deaths

Hamas' military wing called off a 16-month-old cease-fire after blaming Israel for an explosion Friday that killed eight Palestinian civilians on a Gaza beach.

The Israeli military later said an investigation indicated its artillery fire could not have led to the deaths.

Israeli officials suggested the blast may have come from a dud shell left on the beach or an explosive planted by militants, but Palestinians disputed those conclusions.

Since winning control of the Palestinian parliament earlier this year, Hamas has faced intense international pressure to recognize Israel and renounce violence. Western nations have cut off financial aid, leading to a crisis.

Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians as well as attacks on the Israeli military. Israel, the United States and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Hamas officials receive warning

After the civilian deaths last week on the beach, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered the IDF to use restraint.

But Israel fired two missiles Tuesday at a van it said was carrying Islamic Jihad militants intending to fire Russian-made Katyusha rockets into southern Israel. Three militants were killed, and eight Palestinians also died when a second missile hit as they rushed to the van.

Peretz said Wednesday that Israel had passed a message to senior Palestinian Authority officials that the IDF will take action if the rocket fire does not come to a halt.

"I decided to stick with the policy of attacking people launching rockets while they are trying to act and not to ratchet it up another level, and there were many considerations involved, some of which are considerations that cannot be presented to the public," Peretz told the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

"But we made it clear to the most senior echelon of Hamas that we have no intention of making restraint into a strategy."

More than 100 Palestinian rockets have been fired at Israel since Friday, the Israelis said earlier this week.

Most are crudely made Qassam rockets with a limited range of about 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) and no guidance systems. However, militants have obtained Katyusha rockets, which are more sophisticated and have a range of 12.4 (20 kilometers).

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