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Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Kills Five Palestinians


Tensions are running high in the Gaza Strip after a deadly Israeli air strike. It is another challenge for the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has been in a deepening crisis since it assumed control of the Palestinian Authority five weeks ago.

Hundreds of Palestinian gunmen led a funeral procession in Gaza for five militants killed in an Israeli air strike. They chanted nationalist slogans and called for revenge.

The attack occurred on Friday evening, when Israeli aircraft fired three missiles at a training base of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group responsible for many rocket attacks against Israel. The PRC is also believed responsible for the bombing of a United States diplomatic convoy in Gaza in 2003, in which three American security guards were killed. The group has close ties to the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

It was the first air strike since the new Israeli government took power on Thursday. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says there is no excuse for attacks from Gaza because Israel ended its occupation of the territory last September.

"We're defending ourselves," said Mr. Regev. "We pulled out of Gaza, and the terrorist groups started firing rockets. We had to stop that."

While Hamas has not been directly involved in rocket attacks since it assumed control of the Palestinian Authority at the end of March, it has not condemned other militant groups responsible for the attacks or made any effort to stop them.

Hamas' refusal to renounce violence has brought crippling economic sanctions from Israel, the U.S. and European Union, and the new government is broke. Salaries for 165,000 government employees are already two months overdue.

The cash crunch is putting pressure on Hamas, and there are signs that Palestinians are beginning to lose patience. Teachers at five schools in the West Bank town of Hebron have gone on strike to demand their overdue paychecks.

It is the first public sector strike since Hamas took power, and if salaries are not paid soon, labor unrest could spread.

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