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Israel Launches Rare Arrest Raid in Gaza


Israeli forces have carried out a rare ground incursion in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian factions, meanwhile, are nearing an agreement aimed at ending the international isolation of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Israeli commandos stormed into southern Gaza, scaled the walls of a home and nabbed two wanted Palestinian militants. The army said they were members of the Islamic militant group, Hamas, who were planning a major attack against Israel.

Israel has launched frequent air and artillery strikes, in a bid to halt Palestinian rocket attacks that have terrorized Israeli towns and farming villages near the Gaza border for weeks. But this was the first arrest raid in Gaza since Israel pulled out of the territory 10 months ago.

Hamas now controls the Palestinian Authority, but Israeli spokesman Ra'anan Gissin says that does not mean that the group has immunity.

"You can rest assured that we will pay house calls to anyone who is involved in terrorist activity, that these crimes against humanity conducted by the official Palestinian government will not go without an answer," he said.

Hamas seeks Israel's destruction, prompting international sanctions that have crippled the Palestinian Authority and economy. But Hamas appears to be softening its position in talks with the rival and more moderate Fatah faction, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The factions are finalizing an agreement on a so-called document of "national unity," calling for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Since that implies Israel's right to exist within the pre-1967 borders, the Palestinians hope the document will end sanctions, and restore the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel says the document does not go far enough, because it does not directly recognize the Jewish state or renounce violence.

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