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Israel Bombs Gaza Tunnel in Response to Mortar Attacks


Israeli warplanes have pounded a tunnel leading from the Gaza Strip to Egypt. Israel believes the tunnel was being used to smuggle explosives to the Palestinian enclave.

Israel says the pre-dawn raid on the tunnel at Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip was in response to mortar and rocket attacks from militants in Gaza against the Jewish State.

The Israeli military says Palestinian militants fired mortars Sunday at the main border crossing between Israel and Gaza while medical patients were being transferred to Israel for treatment.

The Rafah tunnel is part of a system that Gaza residents have been using to bypass the blockade Israel and Egypt have maintained on the militant Hamas group that rules Gaza.

Israel's aim is to weaken Hamas, which opposes peace with the Jewish state. The group has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting the rival Fatah faction of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. Since then, Fatah has controlled only the West Bank.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, members of Fatah voted at the end of the faction's first convention in 20 years.

Results will determine whether the organization is able to bring in new faces or maintain its old guard, who many within the organization accuse of inaction and corruption.

Mr. Abbas' government in recent months has staged a crackdown on Hamas militants in the West Bank. His efforts to hold the convention and establish a more united faction are meant to further undermine Hamas.

Rami Nasrallah heads the International Peace and Cooperation Center, a research organization in Jerusalem.

"Abbas wants to prevent a situation like in Gaza [where] Hamas will be able to control. He really wants to show that Hamas is not an option and this option is going to fail," Nasrallah said.

Fatah members at the convention, which started last week, endorsed the peace process with Israel.

But Israeli officials expressed skepticism after the Palestinian faction also said it maintained the right to armed resistance.

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