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Hamas renews call for attacks on Israel

Nine Palestinians slain in Gaza raids

GAZA CITY -- Hamas militants called yesterday for a fresh wave of attacks against Israel after troops killed nine Palestinians in weekend fighting, straining a five-month-old cease-fire.

In response to the bloodshed, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' s moderate Fatah movement urged him to consider breaking off contacts with the Israeli government, despite his pledge to the United States to hold regular meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. Hamas and Fatah are partners in a coalition government.

Among the nine Palestinians killed in the weekend upsurge of violence were two gunmen and a 17-year-old who died yesterday in the West Bank.

The fighting also included a Palestinian rocket attack on the southern Israeli town of Sderot that damaged a home.

Israeli officials defended the killings as part of operations that have drastically reduced the number of attacks against Israelis. But Palestinian officials said the deaths jeopardized their efforts to expand the Gaza truce to the West Bank.

Hamas, which has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings, sought to rally other Palestinian militant groups in a new offensive that would shatter the truce in the Gaza Strip. A statement invited Palestinians to unite and "use all possible means of resistance and to respond to the massacres."

Fatah also called for measures against Israel. "The Arab and the Palestinian leadership should evaluate the contacts with Olmert's government and reconsider these contacts and meetings," Fatah spokesman Abu Hakim Alwad said at a briefing. "Israel is sabotaging the efforts made by the president to maintain calm and to strengthen the cease-fire."

Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Olmert, said Israel "reaches out for peace, while at the same time we will always consistently fight against terror."

Israel will continue its operations against Palestinian militants, she said, while "always doing our utmost to avoid any innocent casualties."