CBNNews.com - GAZA STRIP - The Israeli Air Force (IAF) targeted rocket-launching sites, arms smuggling tunnels and a Hamas security installation Sunday evening in response to rocket and mortar shell attacks on Israel over the weekend.
IAF aircraft struck launch pads in northern Gaza, smuggling tunnels near the Rafah border crossing with the Egyptian Sinai, and Hamas offices in central Gaza.
Though smaller terror groups claimed responsibility for the weekend attacks, Israel holds Hamas responsible as the ruling Palestinian faction in the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday morning, residents of southern Israel awoke to the familiar sound of the Color Red siren, warning of incoming rockets.
Palestinians launched the first four rockets just before 7:00 a.m., one landing between two kindergartens.
"We've returned to the reality of before Operation Cast Lead," Eshkol Regional Council education coordinator Yael Adar told school staff.
"The children were on their way to kindergarten with their parents. It was a miracle that nothing happened," she said.
At 9:00 a.m., Palestinians opened fire on an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) unit near the Kissufim crossing. The soldiers returned fire. No one was injured.
Around 11:00 a.m., four mortar shells landed in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. No injuries or property damage was reported in this attack.
Sunday afternoon, two IDF soldiers and one civilian sustained moderate shrapnel injuries from a five-shell mortar barrage.
Around 6:30 p.m., a Kassam hit an open area in the western Negev, with no injuries reported.
On Saturday, Palestinians fired a longer-range Grad missile from northern Gaza, which landed near the coastal city of Ashkelon. The missile exploded in an open field near a kibbutz. No one was injured.
Al-Arabiya: Hamas Accepts Egyptian Cease-Fire Proposal
As rocket and mortar shells pounded southern Israel Sunday, Saudi-based al-Arabiya satellite television network reported that Hamas accepted an Egyptian proposal for a one-year cease-fire with Israel.
According to al-Arabiya, President Mahmoud Abbas plans to speak about deploying PA security forces at the Rafah crossing on Thursday, to coincide with the announcement of the cease-fire.
Nonetheless, Abbas said that if Hamas is not willing to submit to his authority, he will not participate in reconciliation talks.
"I say clearly there will be no dialogue with those who reject the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization]," Abbas said.
"They [Hamas] must recognize in no hidden terms and without vagueness that the PLO is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; then there can be dialogue," he said.
Hamas Delegation in Iran for Talks
Meanwhile, as al-Arabiya announced progress toward a cease-fire, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Teheran Sunday morning, with five senior Hamas officials, to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters reported.
Last week, Mashaal told Arab leaders at a conference in Doha that Palestinian factions comprising the PLO, notably Fatah, have "in its current state no authority."
"It expresses a state of impotence, abuse and a tool to deepen divisions," Mashaal said.
Sunday's Cabinet Meeting
At Sunday morning's Cabinet meeting, it was evident that national elections are 10 days away.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would not allow rocket fire to continue.
"We won't return to the rules of the game that terror groups have tried to dictate, and we won't be dragged into a never-ending shooting war," Olmert told Cabinet ministers.
"We won't give the terror groups warning as to when and how we'll react, but Israel will respond and act at a time and place of its choosing," he said.
Foreign Minister and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni told reporters before the meeting that Israel would respond strongly to the rocket attacks.
"Israel will respond, whether a Kassam hits its target or not, and that's how I will act as prime minister," she said.
During the meeting, Livni expressed her opposition to a cease-fire with Hamas.
"A settlement with Hamas would give it legitimacy, and those working for that with the Egyptians need to understand that," she said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel's response to rocket attacks will be made by professionals guided by him.
"In an election season, there is a lot of chatter by people who have never held a weapon and who don't understand the conditions under which we must act," Barak said.
"We will respond in the right way to what is happening in the Gaza Strip. The professionals under my guidance will formulate a correct response, but we have to act with discretion and responsibility," Barak said.
In his remarks to Cabinet ministers, IDF Military Intelligence Chief Major-General Amos Yadlin said that by reconciling its differences with Fatah, Hamas envisions taking control of the PLO.
"Hamas sees the rehabilitation efforts as an opportunity for inner Palestinian reconciliation, which would enable them to realize their ambition to take over the PLO, bringing an end to the two-state notion," Yadlin said.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news, The Associated Press, Reuters