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Rocket firings end calm on Israel-Gaza border

Story Highlights

• Hamas militants fired a barrage of rockets and mortar shells toward Israel
• Group says it fired 30 rockets and 61 mortar shells at Israel
• The action ends five months of relative calm along the Israel-Gaza border
From Kevin Flower
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- For the first time in five months, the armed wing of Hamas has fired mortars and rockets into Israel from Gaza, breaking an unofficial truce and a period of relative calm along the border.

Hamas' militant wing, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its Web site. The group's spokesman, Abu Obeida, promised "a cruel and painful response to any aggression in the Strip [Gaza]."

Obeida added: "We want to remind Zionist forces that we still hold Gilad Shalit and we are still prepared to kidnap others."

Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from an Israeli border post near Gaza June 25. Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the raid. Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups took responsibility for the attack and his abduction.

Israeli defense sources told CNN they believed Tuesday's attack may have been part of a larger operation to abduct another soldier. But the Israel Defense Forces made no mention of an attempted kidnapping in its official statement, saying, "The Hamas terrorist organization attempted to execute yet another terrorist attack by means of a large-scale operation."

It added, "IDF forces operated in an immediate and determined manner, thus thwarting the planned terrorist attack."

It's unclear whether the Hamas attack marks the end of a partial cease-fire between militants operating in Gaza and the Israeli military that began in November. "There was a temporary conditional truce, and the Zionist enemy violated it and therefore it has been essentially over for some time," the Hamas militant spokesman said.

In its statement, the IDF accused Hamas of "cynically using the cease-fire" to continue to plan terrorist attacks against Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a member of Hamas, said, "We made great efforts at keeping the truce and there was a positive Palestinian position, but unfortunately this position was met by expanding [Israeli] aggression and escalating it against the Palestinian people," according to The Associated Press.

On its Web site, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades said it fired 30 Qassam rockets and 61 mortar shells early Tuesday in response to recent Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank.

An Israeli military spokesman told CNN that only eight mortar rounds had been fired and six rockets, two of which landed in Israel. No injuries were reported.

In response, Israeli helicopters fired on suspected missile launching locations in southern Gaza, the spokesman said.

In his statement on the group's Web site, Obeida called for Palestinian factions to be ready for a new confrontation with Israeli forces after Israeli military operations in the West Bank left nine Palestinians dead over the weekend.

Since November, a partial cease-fire has been in place between the Israeli military and militants operating in Gaza.

Hamas says it has refrained from missile attacks during that time, but some 200 missiles have been launched into Israel by other militant groups, and in recent weeks Israel has commenced air strikes against what they say were suspected militant targets.

CNN's Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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