Staff and agencies
Monday April 23, 2007
Hamas called for retaliatory attacks and attempted to rally other Palestinian militant groups in a new offensive.
"The blood of our people is not cheap," it said in a statement calling on Palestinians to unite and "use all possible means of resistance and to respond to the massacres".
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has been urged by some in his own Fatah party to break off ties with the Israeli government in response to the bloodshed.
"The Arab and the Palestinian leadership should evaluate the contacts with [Ehud] Olmert's government and reconsider these contacts and meetings," Abdel Hakim Alwad, a Fatah spokesman, said.
"Israel is sabotaging the efforts made by the president to maintain calm and to strengthen the ceasefire."
After weeks of relative quiet, the latest surge in violence began on Saturday.
Nine Palestinians, including two gunmen and a 17-year-old killed near Ramalla yesterday, died at the weekend.
Palestinian officials said the teenager had been throwing stones at an Israeli patrol when he was shot. The Israeli army claimed soldiers opened fire as the youth was about to throw a firebomb at a military jeep.
The fighting also included a Palestinian rocket attack on the southern Israeli town of Sderot, in which a home was damaged.
Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Mr Olmert, said Israel "reaches out for peace, while at the same time we will always consistently fight against terror".
Israel would continue its operations against Palestinian militants, Ms Eisin said.
The Gaza truce has largely held, although militants have frequently fired rockets into Israel and attacked Israeli patrols along the border fence. Israel has warned that it will not tolerate continued rocket fire.
Early yesterday, it sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip prior to its memorial day for fallen soldiers, restricting the movement of Palestinians into Israel. The closure is expected to be in force at least until late tomorrow.