The Associated Press
December 20, 2008 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- An Israeli airstrike against a Palestinian rocket squad killed a militant Saturday, the first death in Gaza since Hamas formally declared an end to a six-month truce.

Palestinians fired 10 rockets and at least 23 mortar shells from Gaza into Israel, causing some property damage but no casualties, the Israeli military said. An Israeli airstrike at one of the rocket squads in northern Gaza killed a militant, said the army and Palestinian medics.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, identified the dead man as one of its fighters. Hamas, which controls Gaza, said it was behind the mortar fire.

A six-month truce that expired Friday had curbed violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza though sporadic fighting has continued. Hamas declared Friday that it would not continue the truce.

Also Saturday, a boat carrying a Qatari delegation, Lebanese activists and journalists from Israel and Lebanon sailed into Gaza City's small port in defiance of a border blockade. It was the fifth such boat trip since the summer and the first official Arab delegation to reach Gaza.

Israel and Egypt closed Gaza's borders after Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007. Since November, Israel has tightened the blockade to pressure Gaza militants to halt their rocket fire on Israeli border towns.

The two Qatari citizens aboard the vessel that reached Gaza are from the government-funded Qatar Authority for Charitable Activities.

''We are here to represent the Qatar government and people,'' said delegation member Aed al-Kahtani. ''We will look into the needs of our brothers in Gaza, and find out what is the most appropriate way to bring in (aid).''

Qatar has warm relations with both Israel and Hamas.

The militant group has called on Arab countries to challenge Israel by sailing to Gaza.

''We hope it will be the beginning of Arab moves to break the blockade,'' said Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

Israeli naval boats blocked a recent attempt by a Libyan cargo ship to enter Gaza.

Also on board Saturday were Israeli reporter Shlomi Eldar, a Lebanese reporter, Katya Nasser, from Arab satellite TV channel al-Jazeera, and another Lebanese citizen.

Israel bars its citizens from entering Gaza, fearing for their safety. Eldar, who works for Israel's Channel 10 TV, is the second Israeli journalist to come to Gaza by boat. He has covered the territory since 1991 and said he was trying to assess how much has changed since he was last able to visit.

Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who writes for the Haaretz daily, left Gaza abruptly earlier this month, saying Hamas security officials told her they could not guarantee her safety.

The boat sailed from the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Friday, decked with colorful Palestinian and Lebanese flags. It also carried symbolic humanitarian aid. The visitors are expected to stay in the territory overnight.

In the West Bank, Palestinian inmates clashed with their Israeli guards at a prison camp near Ramallah.

Palestinian deputy minister of prisoner affairs, Ziad Abu Ein, said guards were carrying out an inspection in the Ofer prison camp when fighting broke out. Guards used stun grenades, tear gas and clubs and eight prisoners were injured, he said.

The Israel Prisons Service said in a statement that seven inmates suffered slightly from smoke inhalation and three guards were injured during the disturbance. The difference in numbers could not immediately be rectified.

The Prisons Service said about 150 prisoners took part in the fighting that started when inmates threw objects at the guards and set two tents on fire. It said order was restored and the fires extinguished.

Outside the prison, several ambulances and scores of Israeli riot police wearing gas masks were seen entering the facility. Streams of tear gas and water could also be seen over the prison walls.

Israel holds more than 8,000 Palestinian prisoners, and clashes break out occasionally between inmates and guards.


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