Errant Palestinian Rocket Wounds 2-Year-Old Boy in Gaza

A Palestinian rocket aimed at Israel veered off course and struck a home in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, moderately wounding a 2-year-old boy sleeping in his bedroom, hospital officials and residents said.

The rocket fire further strained a cease-fire reached between Israel and Palestinian militants late last month. Israeli officials say Palestinian militants have fired more than 40 rockets since the Nov. 26 truce, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned this week that his patience is wearing thin.

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Renewed battles with Israel would mean more instability in Gaza, which has been racked by factional fighting between the rival Hamas and Fatah movements for more than a week. Gaza remained calm Thursday on the second day of a renewed truce between the Palestinian rivals.

In Beit Hanoun, Palestinian militants fired two rockets toward Israel from the northern Gaza town. One of the crude projectiles misfired and struck a nearby house, a Palestinian security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The rocket blew through the living room and exploded in a bedroom where three children were sleeping, relatives said.

Two-year-old Samir al-Masri's legs were two broken, said Dr. Said Judeh of Kamal Adwan hospital. The boy's 4-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother were lightly wounded by shrapnel, said their uncle, Jad al-Masri.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the militant group Islamic Jihad fired at least six rockets at Israel on Wednesday, saying it was avenging the deaths of two members in an Israeli arrest raid in the West Bank.

In the past, similar cases of Palestinians being hurt by Palestinian rockets have led to backlashes against militant groups, whose attacks against Israel are generally supported by the public.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, has repeatedly called for an end to rocket fire, saying they only invite harsh Israeli retaliation.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas said he hopes to hold a long-awaited summit with Olmert by the end of the year.

"We always showed our willingness to hold this meeting with Olmert, and it's no secret that we hope it will take place before the end of this year," Abbas said at a news conference with the visiting Italian foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema. "There is progress in preparations for this meeting."

The two leaders have repeatedly expressed readiness to meet for what would be their first summit. But preparations have bogged down amid disagreements over the agenda.

Abbas wants Israel to promise to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Olmert has ruled out a prisoner release until Hamas-linked militants free an Israeli soldier they captured last June. Olmert's spokesman, Jacob Galanti, said he was not aware of firm plans for a meeting.

The latest rocket fire could pose a new obstacle for arranging the meeting. With an ebb in internal Palestinian fighting, militants in Gaza have stepped up their rocket fire in recent days. The Israeli army said a total of four rockets were fired at Israel Thursday. No damage or injuries was reported.

The increase in rocket fire has threatened to derail the Nov. 26 cease-fire, which ended months of Israeli military activity in the Gaza Strip. Israel has not responded to the attacks, but Olmert warned Wednesday that Israel could not stand back forever.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a minister in Olmert's Cabinet, said it is time to call off the truce.

"Enough restraint," he told Israel Radio. "Israel is many things, but a suicidal state isn't one of them. The moment a rocket squad is in the crosshairs, we can't leave them there for a second."