Israel Attacks 2 Hamas Positions in Northern Gaza

Israeli airstrikes Tuesday targeted two camps used by the Islamic militant group Hamas, one day after a Palestinian rocket attack killed a woman in southern Israel, and Israeli leaders suggested even the Palestinian premier could be targeted in reprisal strikes.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged there's no quick solution for the rocket barrages coming from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas officials said there were no casualties in Tuesday's attack, but one of the airstrikes destroyed a building used by its private militia in Gaza, known as the "Executive Force."

The army confirmed the airstrikes, saying it had targeted Hamas forces.

The moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to head to Gaza later Tuesday in hopes of restoring a cease-fire, officials said. However, Israeli and Palestinian officials accused each other of undermining truce efforts -- raising the likelihood of further fighting.

After Monday's night's deadly rocket strike, Israeli defense officials said the army would step up its attacks on Palestinian militants, warning that Hamas' top leaders, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, could be in danger.

"They are just terrorists in suits. This doesn't exonerate him," Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told Israel Radio. "There is no one in the leading, commanding circle of Hamas who has immunity."

The defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said there were no immediate plans for a large-scale ground operation in Gaza.

Leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza already have taken a series of precautions to avoid Israeli attacks.

After a six-month lull, Israel resumed its airstrikes on militant targets in Gaza last Wednesday in response to nonstop rocket attacks. More than 40 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed.

But the Israeli attacks have failed to halt the dozens of rockets falling on Sderot, a town of 24,000 residents less than one mile from Gaza.

Seven more rockets were fired Tuesday, lightly wounding two people, the army said. Israel responded with two airstrikes on suspected weapons depositories in Gaza. Palestinian security officials said there were no injuries.

Late Monday, a rocket hit a car, killing a 31-year-old woman who was standing nearby, police said. The woman was the first Israeli killed in a Qassam rocket attack since November.

Following Monday's attack, Olmert rushed to Sderot for the second time in a week to try to calm residents.

"We will continue to invest and will continue to protect you, but you of course know that there is no immediate solution for the Qassams and there is no definitive solution," Olmert said, according to a statement from his office.

He pledged to speed up the process of reinforcing homes to protect against the rockets. "I understand your anger, frustration and hardship," he said.

The salvo came during a meeting in Sderot between Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief. They were not harmed.

Angry Sderot residents demonstrated outside the building where Solana and Livni were meeting and later burned tires, charging that the Israeli government has failed to protect them.

Solana denounced the violence, and Livni called for international action "to put pressure on the terrorists and the Palestinian government and not compromise with terror."

Abbas was scheduled to travel to Gaza from his West Bank headquarters later Tuesday, but officials in his office warned the trip could be called off if violence flared up.

Abbas was expected to meet with Hamas leaders in hopes of ending the fighting with Israel, as well as factional violence between Hamas and his Fatah movement.

Hamas' rocket attacks apparently have been aimed at drawing in Israel and ending the Palestinian infighting, which killed about 50 people last week.

Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas official, said that the group would consider talks on a cease-fire, if Israel first stopped its "mad attacks."

"The aggression must stop so we can talk about a comprehensive cease-fire," said Youssef, a top aide to Haniyeh. "The government is working on expanding the truce. This is a national interest."

However, Israel dismissed talk of a new cease-fire, saying Hamas never sticks to them.

"Hamas ... is leading the violence," Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday before meeting Solana in Jerusalem. "We don't intend on stopping. We will stop at the point that the rockets stop."

Solana said he would head to the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

Fearing Israeli retaliation, Gaza militant groups declared a state of emergency Monday and instituted precautions. Leaders turned off their cell phones to avoid detection, limited movements and stayed out of official vehicles.

In 2004, at the height of Palestinian-Israeli violence, Israel killed the founder of Hamas, wheelchair-bound Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, in airstrikes just weeks apart.

Israeli officials have said that the assassinations frightened the Hamas leadership and caused a significant reduction in its attacks, especially suicide bombings. Now, however, Hamas is the dominant element in the Palestinian government, sweeping to power in a 2006 election.