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Israel, Hamas Look to End Attacks

Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak (2nd L) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem April 10, 2011

Israel and Hamas have signaled that they are looking to end a flare-up of violence across the Gaza-Israel border. Nineteen Palestinian militants and civilians have been killed and several Israelis wounded since Thursday.

Armed Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip say they are prepared for a cease-fire with Israel. Sami Abu Zuhri is a spokesman for the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza.

Abu Zuhri said that if Israeli stops its "aggression," the Palestinians will also hold their fire. "Calm," he said, "will be met with calm."

Violence erupted on Thursday, when Hamas militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus, critically injuring a teenage boy. Israel responded with deadly air strikes, targeting Hamas commanders in their cars and rocket squads on the ground. The Palestinians fought back, firing more than 120 rockets and mortar shells across the border.

The escalation in Gaza topped the agenda at Israel's weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. Ministers said Israel is prepared for a cease-fire, but the ball is in the court of Hamas.

"Our policy is clear," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "If the attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers continue, there will be a harsh (military) response."

The fighting is the worst since the war in Gaza two years ago. Hamas has urged armed Palestinian factions to exercise restraint, saying it does not want to give Israel an excuse to launch another invasion of Gaza.

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