Gaza Strip (AP) - A high-level Egyptian delegation on Wednesday held urgent talks with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, seeking to restore calm after a rocket from the Palestinian area slammed into a home in southern Israel and the Israeli occupation regime responded with air strikes on Hamas targets.
The pre-dawn flare-up in violence appeared to be pushing the region toward another conflagration between the bitter enemies. But by late Wednesday, there were signs that the situation was calming down.
As the Egyptian mediators arrived, Hamas and a second armed group, Islamic Jihad, issued a joint statement that made rare criticism of the rocket attack, suggesting that they were trying to defuse the situation.
“We reject all irresponsible attempts that try to change the direction and sabotage the Egyptian efforts, including the overnight firing of the rocket,” they said. “At the same time, we emphasise we are ready to confront the Israeli aggression.”
Israel has launched three devastating wars against Gaza since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Israel and Egypt have also maintained a blockade over the territory since the Hamas takeover. The restrictions have ravaged Gaza’s economy.
Hamas has led mass protests along the border with Israel for the past six months, seeking to put pressure on Israel to lift the blockade. Those protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN attempts to broker a truce have faltered.
Meanwhile, Hamas announced that the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel, had called off a planned visit to Gaza on Thursday.
“We are sorry that minister Abbas Kamel has canceled his visit to Gaza and Ramallah,” Mousa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, wrote on Twitter.
Since March, 155 Palestinians have been killed during the protests. One Israeli soldier was killed by sniper fire in July.