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Truce Effort Follows Deadly Violence on Israel-Gaza Border

  • Robert Berger

Palestinians pray over the bodies of four Islamic Jihad militants killed in Israeli airstrikes Saturday, during his funeral in Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011

Palestinians pray over the bodies of four Islamic Jihad militants killed in Israeli airstrikes Saturday, during his funeral in Gaza City, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011

The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip remains tense after an eruption of deadly violence on Saturday. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israel and the Islamic Jihad group are signaling they are interested in an informal ceasefire after a wave of tit-for-tat attacks on the Gaza border.

Israel launched several air strikes on Islamic Jihad targets Saturday and the Palestinians fired more than 20 rockets at border communities in southern Israel. Nine Palestinian militants and an Israeli civilian were killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country does not want an escalation, but he issued a strong warning to Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu told the Cabinet that Israel would respond harshly to any Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks.

"Whoever attacks us," the prime minister said, "his blood will be on his own head."

The Islamic Jihad said that it would halt rocket attacks if Israel ends its air strikes on Gaza. But the group's spokesman, Abu Ahmad, issued a warning of his own.

He said if Israel launches deadly air strikes on Gaza, the Islamic Jihad will retaliate by the same measure.

Both sides have a lot to lose in an escalation. The Israeli army has superior and high-tech firepower that can inflict high casualties, but the inaccurate Palestinian rockets can disrupt life across southern Israel. On Sunday, Israeli schools and colleges within 40 kilometers of Gaza were closed as a precaution against rocket fire.

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