Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke Saturday with the head of Hamas’s political wing, Khaled Mashaal, and asked him to take immediate steps to quell any further escalation of hostilities against Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Abbas asserted that further rocket fire would only provide Israel with “an excuse” to take military action in the Gaza Strip, Arab media reported.
Mashaal, for his part, requested that Abbas work to strengthen the Hamas-Fatah unity pact, even as other Palestinian officials demanded that the Palestinian Authority dismantle the Hamas-backed government.
The two leaders also discussed the possibility of increasing efforts aimed at lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza, reports said without specifying.
Gaza terrorists extended the range of their rocket attacks on Saturday, targeting Beersheba for the first time since November 2012.
Three rockets were fired at the city on Saturday evening, setting off warning sirens in the largest city in southern Israel. One was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, while two fell in open fields. There were no reports of casualties.
The attack on Beersheba, which has a population of some 200,000, marked a significant escalation in the Gaza rocket attacks.
Shortly after the attack on Beersheba, five more rockets were fired towards the Hof Ashkelon and Eshkol regions. Three of them were intercepted by Iron Dome while two fell in open areas. The town of Ofakim was also targeted by an earlier salvo.
In all, over 20 rockets and mortar shells had been fired into Israel by nightfall on Saturday, causing no significant damage, though a soldier was lightly wounded by mortar fire.
In response, Israeli Air Force jets struck 10 “terror sites” in the central and southern Gaza Strip overnight Saturday-Sunday, the IDF said early Sunday.
According to media reports, the IAF targets included weapons caches east of Rafah, three targets in Rafah and at least one in Khan Younis, and several sites throughout the Strip used by Hamas.
The persistent rocket fire came despite Egyptian efforts to broker a renewed truce between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza following a flare-up of cross-border violence since the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers on June 12.
Israel on Thursday reportedly issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Hamas in Gaza to halt the incessant fire or face a massive Israeli strike.
Itamar Sharon contributed to this report.
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