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Israel Rejects Immediate Cease-fire With Hamas


Israel has rejected an immediate 48-hour cease-fire with Hamas, saying it will push ahead with its military assault on the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials say Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense and foreign ministers made the decision after discussing the French-proposed truce during a meeting overnight.

Israeli war planes continued their assault on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip for a fifth-day Wednesday, despite mounting international pressure for an end to the violence.

Officials say the missiles hit Hamas government buildings and tunnels used to smuggle food and weapons into Gaza from Egypt. Hamas also is continuing to fire rockets into Israel.

Israel began attacking Hamas targets Saturday to try to stop militant attacks, after their six-month cease-fire expired earlier this month.

More than 370 Palestinians have died since Saturday. The United Nations says at least 62 of them were civilians. Four Israelis have been killed.

About 1.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza, which rests along the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Israel and Egypt.

Hamas generally fires short-range missiles at southern Israel. But, on Tuesday, a rocket hit an the Israeli city of Beersheba, 46 kilometers from Gaza - farther than ever before. No casualties were reported.

Hamas says it will keep up its attacks if Israel does not stop its assault. The warning came as Israeli troops, tanks and other military vehicles massed along the Israel-Gaza border for a possible ground offensive.

Hamas wrested control of Gaza away from the more moderate mainstream Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas more than a year ago. Mr. Abbas has appealed for talks with his Hamas rivals to form a united front against what he called Israel's massive aggression in Gaza.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters

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