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Renewed Violence Challenges Israeli-Palestinian Truce

Palestinian militants fired dozens of mortars and rockets into Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip early Thursday, violating a cease-fire declared only two days earlier. The violence is likely to increase pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take further steps against the militants.

Hamas says its militants fired 46 mortars and rockets into Gaza settlements and nearby communities inside Israel. The military says 17 mortars hit Israeli targets but caused no casualties.

Hamas says the attack was not meant to challenge President Abbas or the truce he announced only two days earlier at a summit with the Israelis in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Mushir al-Masri told Israel radio the group wants to help President Abbas but will not stand idly by and ignore Israeli actions.

He said Thursday morning's attack was in retaliation for the death of Palestinian man, killed by Israeli gunfire in Gaza on Wednesday.

The Israeli military said soldiers thought the man was trying to infiltrate the Atzmonah settlement.

Israeli troops in the West Bank also shot and killed a Palestinian motorist who they said refused to stop at a military roadblock.

The incidents show just how tense the situation on the ground remains and how tenuous the two-day-old truce is.

In response to Thursday morning's mortar attack, Israel has postponed a meeting with Palestinian negotiators, which had been scheduled for later in the day.

The violence is also likely to increase pressure on President Abbas to take stronger action against the militants.

Israeli government advisor and spokesman, Avi Pazner told VOA Mr. Abbas has the means necessary to disarm and stop the militants.

"Mahmoud Abbas has under his command a police force of between 30,000 and 40,000 people, which is a considerable force, much stronger than anything the terrorists can deploy," he said. "He does have the means, the question is a political question."

The Palestinian leader has been reluctant to take stronger steps against the militant groups and has instead focused on coaxing them into a de-facto truce, hoping to bring them into the political fold.

But, Mr. Pazner says Mr. Abbas will have to take more decisive action and accept the political consequences. Without that, Mr. Pazner says the whole truce could collapse and endanger the entire effort to eventually bring the two sides back to peace negotiations.