Israel's cease-fire with Hamas may be in jeopardy

Palestinian militants fired three rockets into southern Israel on Tuesday, jeopardizing Israel's 6-day-old cease-fire with Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

The rockets caused minimal damage but presented an early test for Hamas leaders in Gaza, who'd agreed to halt Palestinian militant attacks on Israel.

Israeli leaders condemned the attack but stopped short of immediately declaring the tenuous Egyptian-brokered cease-fire dead.

The rocket attacks came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, to discuss the next steps in the truce.

“We have strong understandings with the Egyptians concerning how things would develop,” Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said. “There's a step-by-step process in the framework of the calm, and that assumption is at least questionable at the moment.”

He added: “We are keeping our cards close to our chest.”

Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip took responsibility for breaking the cease-fire and said the rocket attacks came in response to an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus that killed one of its members.

Islamic Jihad vowed to respond with further attacks if Israel continued its operations in the West Bank, though the cease-fire deal applies only to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders met Islamic Jihad militants Tuesday night in an attempt to prevent the group from breaking the accord. “Hamas will continue its commitment to the calm, and we call on all Palestinian parties to do the same,” Hamas leader Fawzi Barhoum said.

The fragile truce was first broken early Tuesday when Gaza militants fired a single mortar into southern Israel. The more serious attacks came Tuesday afternoon, when Islamic Jihad members fired three rockets in two rounds at the southern Israeli town of Sderot.