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Cycle of Violence Continues on Israel-Gaza Border

The mother of 14-tear-old Bassam Al Helou, killed recently in an Israeli attack
The mother of 14-tear-old Bassam Al Helou, killed recently in an Israeli attack

The endless cycle of violence along Israel's border with Gaza prompts some Palestinians there to call for a unity government and peace with Israel. But for others, it adds support for armed groups that launch rocket attacks on Israel.

A family mourns its dead.

Bassam Al Helou, 14, was playing football with his cousins outside their home when an Israeli shell hit here recently. The attack killed Bassam, his uncle and a cousin.

Um Bassam is the dead boy's mother.

"This is the schedule for the matches that he was following," said Bassam. "He was a fan of Barcelona. This was the last game that he watched. He didn't even have time to write the result of that match."

The three family members are among the latest victims in the escalation of violence along the Israel Gaza border.

Israel expressed regret for the loss of civilian lives. It says it was targeting militants who had been firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, had earlier discouraged militants from firing rockets. Since the killing of the El Helou family members, Hamas has endorsed the attacks.

Ismail Radwan is a Hamas spokesman:

"After this massacre, the occupation committed against our Palestinian people, there was no choice for the factions but to react to that aggression," said Radwan. "This reaction was a response to their aggression."

Hamas faces protests by those who want a new approach. Protesters call for a unity government comprised of Hamas and its rival, the moderate Fatah faction that runs the West Bank.

Mahmoud El-Helou, the brother of the older man who died in the attack, wants an end to the violence. He says it is time for Palestinian leaders to cut their losses and end their divisions.

"When they unite, they will be stronger because united they can be stronger and then they can negotiate with Israel," said El-Helou. "Peace is the best thing. There is no other solution than peace between us and Israel. We do not have the same might that Israel has and we cannot continue hitting them and have them hitting us back. We are a disarmed people."

But while some call for peace, others want war.

Um Bassam says her hope for peace died with her son.

"I was against shelling Israel because I wanted to live in peace," she said. "But now, if they said there is an attack on Israel and children there die as a result, maybe the fire I feel in my chest will be calmed, because then they will feel our suffering, just as we lost our children. Before that I was against firing rockets because we wanted peace and I wanted our children to live in peace but after my child died, why do we want peace? For what? Who is going to live?"

Hamas is concerned the anger may boost support for the Islamic Jihad faction that has been firing rockets at Israel.

In a bid to ease tensions, Hamas leaders offered a cease-fire with Israel, but only if Israel stops attacking. Israel says it will not hesitate to use force as long as its citizens are under attack.

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