Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff
November 18, 2008 - 8:00pm

Hamas' military wing announced Tuesday it was "prepared for a confrontation with Israel" and for the end of the cease-fire with Israel. But political sources said the cease-fire was expected to go on.

Hamas' Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades threatened to "turn the cease-fire tables on the heads of the Zionists," they said in a statement. Abu Obeida, the alias of a spokesman for the military wing, threatened that Hamas would "retaliate fiercely" should Israel resume its targeted-killings policy, as some defense officials have said were advisable after the cease-fire.

By contrast, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said that since the cease-fire was not a unilateral move, both sides should honor their part.

Meanwhile, in what could be seen as an indication of relative calm in the area, the Gaza regional division of the Israel Defense Forces received a new commander Tuesday in a military ceremony near the border with the Strip.

The ceremony in which Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg replaced Moshe Tamir was supposed to take place last week, but was postponed because of Palestinian rocket fire. Tamir was replaced as commander of the regional division deployed around Gaza after having served for two years and three months.

Militants fired rockets from the Strip into Israel Tuesday as well, but in a lower frequency than last week, when hostilities threatened to quash the cease-fire, which is due to expire next month. The Popular Resistance Committees and the Popular Front assumed responsibility for the rocket fire.

Three Qassam rockets exploded Tuesday in an open field in the northern Negev. Militants later fired mortar rounds at an IDF force operating near the fence on the Palestinian side of the border. No casualties or damage to property were reported in either incident.

The IDF Spokesman said the soldiers were searching for explosive devices which militants had placed to detonate near IDF patrols.

Military sources said they believed that Hamas was not directly behind the rocket fire and hostilities, but rather one or some of the smaller Palestinian militant movements. The officers think Hamas is pressuring smaller Palestinian factions in an attempt to preserve the cease-fire.


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