Page last updated at 00:51 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 01:51 UK

Hamas arrests Gaza rocket squad

The uncle of Salim Jumaa al-Hamedi grieves for his nephew (10 July 2008)
Relatives mourn a Palestinian killed by the Israeli army as he infiltrated Israel

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a Palestinian militant group, says three of its members have been detained by the larger rival group Hamas.

The move comes after al-Aqsa militants fired two rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

The detentions are the first since Hamas, which controls Gaza, agreed a ceasefire with Israel last month aimed at easing an Israeli blockade.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has called for the release of its members.

Israeli police said the rockets fired on Wednesday landed in an open area and no-one was hurt.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said it launched the rockets in retaliation for the Israeli army's killing of an unarmed member of the group as he tried to cross the Gaza-Israel border.


It was the first death along the border since the 19 June ceasefire.

An army spokesman said soldiers saw him near the Kissufim crossing, so they fired warning shots. When he did not stop, they opened fire and killed him.

In Egypt, a senior Hamas leader, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said the group would continue to hold the truce with Israel and pledged to stop violators.

"Firing rockets is just an act by individuals and not by the resistance groups, and efforts are under way to put them under control," he said.


Hamas itself had previously been responsible for firing rockets into Israel.

Rockets have been fired on several occasions since the start of the truce between Israel and Hamas.

One of the militant groups behind the salvoes, Islamic Jihad, said it had counted nine truce violations in three weeks, including opening fire on fishermen in Gazan waters.

It is not clear if Israel will respond to the rocket fire by closing Gaza's goods crossings, which have been sealed off a number of times in similar circumstances since the fragile truce between Israel and Palestinian militants began.

Israeli troops intensified their blockade of Gaza, allowing in only humanitarian and basic supplies, after Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007.

Israel occupied Gaza, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 war. It dismantled settlements in Gaza and pulled troops out unilaterally in 2005.

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