JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets toward Israel on Thursday, the Israeli army said, the latest threat to a strained cease-fire.
The army said one rocket fired early Thursday landed in the Mediterranean, while the second, fired in the afternoon, landed in an open area in southern Israel. No injuries were reported.
The Hamas militant group this week fired a barrage of homemade rockets at Israel earlier this week, its first such attack since a cease-fire agreement was reached in November. After consulting with top security officials Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided against a widespread offensive in Gaza, giving one last chance to preserve the truce.
Militants linked to President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, as well as the tiny Popular Resistance Committees and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility for Thursday's rocket attacks.
Olmert and Abbas announced the Gaza truce in late November, declaring an end to Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli attacks, including airstrikes.
The agreement has largely held, though Palestinian militant groups have kept up frequent rocket attacks. According to the Israeli army, militants have fired 230 homemade rockets at Israel since the truce, compared with about 600 launchings in the five months before the deal. The rockets have caused no serious injuries since the truce.
With tensions rising, Olmert convened an emergency meeting of senior security officials Wednesday to discuss a response. But Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, said there would be no large-scale military raid in Gaza for the time being. "They didn't plan any operation," she said. "They decided to leave all options open."
Senior intelligence officials, including the head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security service, have warned in recent months that Hamas — which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombing attacks — is preparing for all-out battle.
They say Hamas has used the lull to smuggle some 30 tons of explosives through tunnels from neighboring Egypt into Gaza, and has sent militants to Iran for training.
Hamas warned Israel to think twice about attacking. "The Zionist enemy knows well that entering Gaza ... will not be a pleasant stroll," said Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas' armed wing, in a statement on the group's Web site.
Despite the tough talk, renewed fighting would be risky for both sides.
As a member of the Palestinian unity government, Hamas has been trying to win international legitimacy to get international economic sanctions lifted. With the U.S. and European Union already classifying Hamas as a terrorist group, a new round of fighting would do little to help the group's cause in the West.
Olmert, meanwhile, has been weakened by last summer's war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, as well as corruption allegations. Renewed fighting would also threaten the dialogue Olmert has opened with Abbas, the moderate Palestinian president.
Olmert's troubles could come to a head on Monday, when a government commission investigating the Lebanon conflict presents an interim report that could be sharply critical of his leadership.
Also on Thursday, a militant wounded by the Israeli army in Gaza in October died in a Syrian hospital, according to Palestinian medical officials and a Web site associated with the gunman's Fatah movement.