Rockets Hit Israel, Hamas: Close To Deal

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP

(CBS/AP) Two rockets fired by Gaza militants hit near a communal farm and the Israeli town of Sderot Friday, the Israeli military said.

No one was injured and no armed group took responsibility for the attack, which came even as the militant Palestinian group Hamas indicated a peace deal with Israel was just days away.

Rocket fire and shooting incidents along the Gaza-Israel border have persisted since the end of Israel's devastating offensive against Hamas in the territory. Israel halted the operation on Jan. 18 and Hamas declared a cease-fire later the same day.

Friday's rockets came as Hamas officials again said talks in Cairo aimed at achieving a long-term truce to bring quiet to the war-torn Gaza Strip were close to success.

A Hamas delegation is in the Egyptian capital and an Israeli envoy has been flying in periodically from Tel Aviv. Egypt is mediating between Israel and Hamas because the sides will not talk directly to each other.

Late on Thursday, Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk told Egypt's official MENA news agency that the Islamic militant group has agreed to an 18-month truce with Israel. He said it would be announced within two days after the group consults with other Palestinian factions, the news agency reported. Abu Marzouk said the deal calls for Israel to reopen its border crossings into Gaza, fulfilling Hamas' central demand.

Marzouk told CBS News George Baghdadi on Sunday that the deal was within reach, stating then that the agreement would include the reopening of boarder crossings and refusing to rule out the possibility that Hamas would free long-time hostage Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by militants more than two years ago. (Click here to read the story in World Watch.)

The border crossings have been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since Hamas violently seized power in the territory in June, 2007, defeating its rivals from the Fatah movement.

Taher Nunu, a Hamas spokesman in Cairo with the group's truce delegation, said Friday he expects an agreement "within the coming three days." He said progress had been made on a cease-fire, on reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and on reconstruction funds for Gaza.

"Many obstacles have been resolved, especially stopping all forms of aggression and the issue of the quality and kind of goods (entering Gaza) and the opening of the border," Nunu said in a statement e-mailed to reporters in Gaza.

Little has leaked from the Israeli side on the truce talks. In Jerusalem, government officials would not comment Friday.

Israeli defense officials said the talks were serious and making progress. An initial agreement could involve a partial opening of Gaza's crossings, they said, with a later agreement to include the release of Schalit in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners demanded by Hamas. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the details remain classified.

Talks on Schalit's release have stalled over disagreements about which prisoners Israel would free. The hundreds of names on Hamas' list include senior militants and masterminds of deadly suicide bombings.

It is unclear how the results of Israel's national election this week are affecting the Cairo talks.

CBS News correspondent Robert Berger reports that, with the final results in, dovish Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party won 28 seats in Israel's 120-member Knesset.

But hard-line Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu came in a close second with 27 seats. These figures mask the real results; that the right wing of Israeli politics, led by Netanyahu, controls parliament.

Coalition wrangling is expected to last weeks, at least, but Netanyahu will probably be appointed to form the next government, reports Berger, and the right will try to put the breaks on U.S. plans for a Palestinian state.

© MMIX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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