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Palestinians Hold Mass Funeral for Victims of Israeli Shelling in Gaza


Tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in a mass funeral for 18 victims of an Israeli artillery attack Wednesday in the Gaza Strip. Israel is on high alert as Palestinians threaten retaliation for the incident.

There was no violence at the funeral, but plenty of anger as the victims of Wednesday's shelling incident - mostly women and children belonging to the same extended family - were buried in a mass funeral. Israel has apologized for the incident in which artillery fire that Israel says was responding to Palestinian rocket attacks hit several buildings in the town of Beit Hanoun.

Some Palestinian militant groups are threatening to resume suicide bombings in Israel in retaliation for the incident. Israel's Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter says the country is on high alert.

Dichter says the incident is regrettable, but Palestinian leaders need to do more to stop the rocket attacks against Israel. Israel says it will continue military activities in Gaza to stop the attacks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Israel risks destroying any remaining chance for peace with its actions in Gaza. But, he is also criticizing Palestinian militants for firing the rockets, saying their actions invited Israeli reprisals.

Hamas leaders criticized the remarks by Mr. Abbas saying Israel, and not Palestinians, were responsible for the violence in Gaza. Mr. Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas militant, have continued meetings aimed at forming a coalition or unity government not headed by Hamas.

Hamas is regarded as a terrorist group by much of the international community, which has suspended donor aid to the Palestinians because of the Hamas refusal to recognize Israel. Palestinians hope a unity government, not led by Hamas might get the aid flowing again.

Hamas leaders appear to be disagreeing over how to respond to Wednesday's shelling incident. Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, regarded as an extreme hard liner, issued a call Wednesday for Muslims around the world to attack U.S. interests - a call disavowed by Hamas leaders in Gaza.

Hamas leaders in Gaza have also not publicly supported Meshaal's call to resume suicide bombings in Israel, which Hamas suspended last year.

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