Militants Fire Rockets Into South Israel


JERUSALEM (AP) - Palestinian militants fired five rockets at southern Israel early Thursday, shortly after officials said Israeli threats had cowered the Hamas-led government into stopping the attacks.

The Israeli army said one person was slightly injured in the southern town of Sderot and a building was damaged. The Islamic Jihad military group took responsibility for the attacks.

Hamas had said it was ending a 16-month cease-fire against Israel in response to an explosion Friday that killed eight civilians on a Gaza beach. Several dozen rockets were then launched into Israel, prompting the Israeli government to issue threats against Hamas.

Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, said earlier Thursday that the rocket attacks had apparently stopped following the threats.

Israel Radio reported Thursday that a Hamas leader living in Syria, Khaled Mashaal, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had ordered a stop to the rocket fire. Hamas officials declined the report.

Israel has said an internal inquiry found it was not to blame for the beach explosion, but officials from both the ruling Hamas party and the rival Fatah movement have rejected the findings.

In response to Hamas' calls earlier this week to escalate attacks, Israeli officials suggested that Israel would strike at Hamas leaders involved in violence, even naming Haniyeh as a possible target. Israeli lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi said Israel would avoid targeting Hamas members if the group halts attacks.

"If Israel will see that there is something to this new policy, of course the reaction will be accordingly," Hanegbi told Israel Radio.

Hanegbi, the chairman of the influential parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was among Israeli officials who said earlier this week that Haniyeh himself could be targeted.

Israel has in recent weeks carried out several deadly air strikes against Palestinian militants it believed were involved in rocket attacks.

Hamas gained control over the Palestinian Authority after winning elections in January. The group's military wing has killed more than 250 Israelis in attacks in the past six years, but had largely kept a February 2005 until it started engaging in rocket attacks against Israel last month.

The militant group, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, has thus far resisted international pressure to recognize Israel and renounce violence.