Israel Foils Terror Attack in Northern Gaza

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Just a day after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was reported to have said he would respect a peace deal between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli army thwarted a terror attack along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Overnight Thursday the Israeli army said it identified a number of armed Palestinians near the security fence in the Northern Gaza Strip. Ground and air forces fired on the Palestinians, the army reported.

A separate report said two Palestinians were killed as they tried to plant an explosive devise along the border.

The Israeli army "holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it," the army said in a statement.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been about 100 different terror-related incidents near the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip - that an average of one every three days, the army said.

In a rare press conference in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, indicated he would accept a peace agreement with Israel if it were approved in a Palestinian referendum.

Hamas agreed to such an idea as part of a Palestinian unity deal in 2007 just months before it wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas in a violent coup.

Washington-backed talks between Abbas and Israel stalled shortly after they were re-started several months ago. Abbas is demanding that Israel quit building in settlements in the West Bank - what Israel considers to be it's Biblical heartland - but Abbas also refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Haniyeh was quoted as saying that "we don't have a problem with establishing a viable Palestinian state with full sovereignty on the land that was occupied in 1967." That includes the Gaza Strip, West Bank (Biblical Judea and Samaria) and eastern Jerusalem.

Israel was quick to dismiss the report.

"If Hamas really wanted to reach out for peace, it could have done so very simply by accepting the three conditions of the Quartet (of Mideast mediators), which are to recognize Israel, recognize past Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and abandon terror," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted as saying.

One Israeli official, who asked his name not be used, told CBN News that there was nothing new in Haniyeh's statements but that Haniyeh wanted the West to think so.

He didn't say he would accept Israel, the official noted. Hamas has never given up on its aim of an Islamic Palestinian State on all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza under Hamas rule, he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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