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Israel Issues Warning to Hamas Over Rocket Firings


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has issued what he calls a "last minute" call to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, urging them to pressure their Hamas rulers to stop rocket fire into Israel.

Mr. Olmert made the appeal during a television interview with Arab station, Al-Arabiya on Thursday, during which he said Israel will not hesitate to strike Hamas or any other Palestinian militant group.

The remarks came as militants fired rockets and mortars into Israel for a second day in a row. Israeli officials say more than 80 rockets and mortar rounds hit southern Israel on Wednesday. No casualties were reported.

Meanwhile, Israeli defense officials say the military is preparing an operation against Hamas targets in Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also vowed to retaliate against Hamas and said Israel can not tolerate a situation in which the militant group continues to target Israeli citizens.

She made the comments on Thursday during talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, urged Hamas to hold its fire and said he hoped Israel and Hamas will resume a cease-fire that ended last week. Egypt helped mediate the six-month truce.

Despite the escalating violence, Israel agreed to open up two border crossings on Friday to allow some humanitarian aid to get through to Gaza.

Meanwhile, Egypt's foreign minister also said Thursday Egypt will invite leaders of the rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, to resume reconciliation talks in Egypt.

The two factions have been deeply divided since Hamas used force to seize control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with authority only in the West Bank.

In other news, an Israeli military court has sentenced Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Palestinian militant group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to 30 years in prison for his ties to attacks against Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.