PA Says It Arrests Palestinian Man Who Opened Fire

IDF denies Hamas claim 10-year-old girl was killed by troops' gunfire; IDF Intelligence: Hamas part of 'axis of evil' against regional calm.

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday told Israel it had arrested a Palestinian man who opened fire in the Gaza Strip's Rafah refugee camp the day before at the same time a Palestinian schoolgirl was fatally wounded by gunfire.

PA security forces confiscated the man's weapon but they did not, however, specify whether the arrested man was suspected of having shot 10-year-old Nuran Dib.

Dib was killed under still undetermined circumstances, and Hamas, on the assumption that the girl was killed by Israel Defense Forces gunfire, retaliated with a barrage of mortar shells into Gush Katif.

The IDF said the girl was likely shot by Palestinian pilgrims' shooting into the air upon returning from the Hajj. Immediately after the Monday incident, PA forces evaded an Israeli offer to conduct a joint inquiry.

The 4 P.M. Rafah shooting killed Dib, who was struck in the head by a bullet. A second child, a 7-year-old girl, was hit in the shoulder. Both girls were at the UNRWA school, located about 500 meters from the IDF's Termit outpost on the Philadelphi corridor.

But an IDF inquiry found that no Israeli troops in the area had fired their weapons and suspicions fell on Palestinians who were firing guns in celebration of heir successful pilgrimage to Mecca, as stray bullets fired in the air could have landed on the Rafah schoolyard where the girls were playing.

"According to our examination, the girl apparently was not shot by Israeli army gunfire," the military spokesman's office said.

But Hamas was not interested in explanations about trajectories and soon after the girl's burial, nine mortar shells were fired at Gush Katif.

The attacks continued on Tuesday, when Palestinians fired mortar shells at Gaza Strip settlements. Two people suffered from shock after five shells hit settlements and damaged several vehicles.

But Hamas threatened further retaliation "if the crimes continue." The military took that to mean the militant group was trying to set a pattern of retaliation for perceived Israeli acts of violence, within the framework of a cease-fire, security officials said.

Palestinian militant groups warned in a statement they would resume attacks against Israel in light of what they consider to be an ongoing policy of incursions by the IDF into Palestinian territory, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.

The statement was issued jointly by eight groups, including the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

On Tuesday, Mofaz called on the Palestinian Authority to stop the mortar fire.

"So far we have not seen active operations by the Palestinian forces," he said. "We expect such activity to be undertaken. ... If the current reality continues, or heaven forbid, gets worse, it will be very hard for us to make progress with the dialogue."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian police "will exert every possible effort to stop such firing."

On Tuesday evening, Palestinian militants fired one mortar shell at the Netzarim settlement in the central Gaza Strip. There were no casualties, Israel Radio reported.

IDF Intelligence: Hamas part of 'axis of evil'The quiet in Gaza and the West Bank largely depends on the will of Hamas leaders, who form part of a regional "axis of evil" that opposes regional calm, the head of Military Intelligence said Tuesday.

"Everything can cause a break in the calm," Major General Aharon Ze'evi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Ze'evi said Abbas had agreed to let Hamas leaders hold onto their weapons during cease-fire talks, adding that Hamas and Hezbollah are working together to dash any such halt of attacks.

"The axis of evil - which includes the Hezbollah, Hamas and Al-Qaida organizations supported by Iran - adamantly opposes calm, and Hamas and Hezbollah are working together to destroy the cease-fire," he said.

Ze'evi added that Palestinians were talking only about establishing "calm," rather than a more stable cease-fire or hudna (temporary truce).

Israel reopens Rafah crossingThousands of Palestinians passed through the Rafah crossing on Tuesday, which Israel reopened in the morning after Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz agreed to a Palestinian Authority request to reopen the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

The Rafah crossing is the main gateway in and out of the Gaza Strip for Palestinian travelers. It was closed since December 12, the day of a Palestinian attack that killed several Israeli soldiers at a nearby outpost.