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Palestinian Rocket Attacks Test Truce with Israel


Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired at least four rockets at Israel, including one that hit a major city. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the Israeli government is coming under growing pressure to strike back.

The Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the latest rocket attacks on Israel, which violated a month-old cease-fire in Gaza. One of the rockets landed next to a strategic facility in the city of Ashkelon, close to where dangerous substances are stored.

Several other rockets landed in the hard hit Israeli town of Sderot, where residents are worn out. Resident Michelle Sendell told Israel Radio what it is like in Sderot.

"They're winning," she says. "I mean it may be just one battle out of a big war, but this battle they are winning. Hundreds of families have left Sderot already. People are afraid."

Israeli medics say one of the rockets that hit Sderot wounded two people, including a teenage boy.

Israel has opted for restraint, even though more than 50 Palestinian-made Kassam rockets have been fired across the Gaza border since the truce began. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.

"I think everyone understands that there's not a magical military answer to the Kassam question. I mean if it was an easy issue to solve militarily we would have done it already," Regev says.

Sderot residents like Sendell say that is defeatism.

"You expect a country that has an army and that has a little bit of pride in itself to protect its citizens," Sendell says." "Where is the government, where is the army?"

The government says it wants to give diplomacy a chance. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend in a bid to revive the peace process. Israel fears that military action in Gaza would weaken Mr. Abbas, who is locked in an increasingly violent power struggle with the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas.

Diplomacy will get another boost next week, when Mr. Olmert travels to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak.

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