Haniyeh: If Israel abides by truce, so will Palestinian groups
Qassam hits industrial zone near Ashkelon; Rocket fire seen waning as Hamas reins in militants.
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza remain committed to a truce with Israel if Jerusalem reciprocates, Hamas's Gaza leader said on Friday, even as militants launched more attacks from the coastal territory.
"I have met with armed factions over the past two days and they stated their position clearly: they are committed to calm as long as (Israel) abides by it," said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's most senior representative in Gaza.
A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip exploded in an industrial area south of the Negev city of Ashkelon on Friday, Israel Polcie said.
There were no injuries reported in the incident, which came as weeks of traded violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip threatened to unravel a 5-month-old cease-fire.
Haniyeh, who was speaking after Friday prayers in Gaza, also sought to calm tensions which have arisen with Egypt following a breakdown of reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah which the Egyptians have been mediating.
"In day-to-day relations there may be differences, this is true, but it does not mean that there is a strategic tension with our brothers in Egypt," Haniyeh said.
Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair called on both sides to end the violence and said the five-month-old truce has been "crucial" in providing security to Israelis and Palestinians.
"The only lasting solution to the desperate situation in Gaza will require an end to terrorist attacks, continued restraint, and the opening of the crossings," Blair said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, Palestinian militants fired two mortar shells at an Israel Defenses Forces patrol near the Kissufim crossing between Israel and Gaza. There were no injuries in the attack, which was claimed by the Popular Resistance Committeees.
After some two weeks of rocket barrages by the dozens, Hamas has said it stopped firing rockets and is working to rein in the smaller groups. One Qassasm rocket hit the western Negev Thursday.
The Israel Air Force has responded to the rockets with air strikes of its own, killing a number of militants in recent weeks.
The Israel Defense Forces has kept crossings into Gaza mostly shut over the last few weeks because of the ongoing rocket fire.
Israel has allowed a trickle of key supplies into Gaza over the course of the truce, but has much stricter about the openings since the flurry of rocket fire resumed on November 4.
The closure has caused shortages of basic goods and fuel for Gaza's 1.4 million Palestinian resident.