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Israel Strikes Targets in Gaza; Hamas Announces Deal to Stop Rocket Fire


Israeli military says its aircraft struck two factories in Gaza and a smuggling tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt; Palestinian medics say the air assault wounded at least seven people

Israel says it has struck suspected weapons factories and smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip. The air strikes were carried out despite an announcement from Hamas that militants in Gaza will stop firing rockets at southern Israel.

Israel says the air strikes were in response to a rocket fired Saturday by militants from Gaza at southern Israel.

The Israeli attacks occurred just hours after Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist militant faction that rules Gaza, announced it had reached an agreement with Palestinian factions within the Strip to stop firing rockets.

Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad said the aim of the agreement is to give people in Gaza stability for rebuilding, following Israel's 22-day offensive nearly a year ago.

He said Hamas reached an agreement with all Palestinian factions to stop hitting Israel with rockets. He said that if Israeli forces enter Gaza, the factions would be given free rein to respond.

The Israelis responded with skepticism to the Hamas announcement. Media reports quoted an official in the prime minister's office as saying Israel would judge Hamas by its actions, not its words.

Israel says it will continue to hit back when militants from Gaza lob rockets at Israeli communities. Its offensive in December and January was aimed at destroying the militants' capability to strike Israel. Rockets have continued to hit Israel since the offensive ended January, but in far fewer numbers than before.

Despite Sunday's air strikes on Gaza, Hamas' promise to stop the firing of rockets raises hopes in Israel that a deal between Israel and Hamas could be near.

Israel wants Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, a soldier captured and held by militants in Gaza more than three years ago. Reports in Gaza quote a Hamas official involved in negotiations as saying talks are close to resolving the obstacles that remain.

In exchange for freeing Shalit, Hamas wants Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. They include some who were convicted of carrying out terrorist attacks that killed Israelis.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres met in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt, along with Germany, is mediating indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel.

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