Two Qassam missiles aimed at Sderot early Thursday shatter ceasefire

An Israeli air raid struck a Hamas operative Muhammad Samir in Khan Younes, inflicting at least 10 Palestinian casualties Thursday, Jan. 29, after two missiles aimed at Sderot from Gaza early that morning landed in the Shear Hanegev region. Samir was implicated din the rocket fire and the roadside bombing Tuesday.
The first pair of Palestinian missiles were fired Wednesday. Overnight, the Israeli Air force struck a missile workshop in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. debkafile‘s military circles report that in the 48 hours since a roadside bomb from Gaza killed an Israeli soldier and injured three, Hamas has reverted to its tit-for-tat cycle in an effort to demonstrate who makes the rules.
Earlier, we reported that the approach of a fresh Gaza flare-up caused defense minister Ehud Barak to cancel his trip this week to Washington for talks with US defense secretary Robert Gates. Wednesday, as Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell met with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, Hamas fired its first two Qassam missiles and several mortar rounds into southern Israel since the 22-day conflict was halted by ceasefires. In Damascus, meanwhile Hamas and other radical Palestinian leaders rejected Cairo’s plan for a long-term truce, demanding the reopening of all the Gaza crossings first.
This rejection was backed by the fresh round of missiles and mortar shells from Gaza.
Hamas was signaling its intention to revert to pummeling southern Israel again with rockets and missiles if its armed forces resorted to major retaliation for the fatal roadside bomb.
Until Hamas-Damascus slapped down its veto, Egypt had hoped for a long-term truce to begin on Feb. 5, followed by a power-sharing conference between the warring Palestinian factions on Feb. 22. The timeline was announced by Egyptian foreign minister Aboul Gheit.
But Hamas’ rejection has taken Cairo back to square one. The Egyptians believe that a good military hiding by Israel will bring the Palestinian Islamist extremists back to the negotiation table in a more reasonable frame of mind. This situation prompted Barak’s remark that another Hamas attack or two is to be expected soon.
Israeli and Egyptian leaders updated Mitchell Wednesday and explained why the ceasefire which he sought to consolidate during his Middle East tour had become untenable. Cairo and Jerusalem were equally resigned to another round of hostilities before diplomacy could take off.
Our military sources stress that the Israeli air strike which killed a Hamas member of the bomb squad in Khan Younis Tuesday night and its bombardment of three Philadelphi Corridor smuggling tunnels early Wednesday were but a foretaste of the reprisals the Israel military has in store for curbing further Hamas aggression.

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