The armed wing of Hamas fired mortar shells on the Israeli military checkpoint of Eretz in northern Gaza, slightly wounding four Israeli soldiers, on Sunday. .
A statement released by the Ezzildin Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, read that the brigades’ fighters fired eight homemade shells on Gaza’s northern border crossing, which is manned by Israeli soldiers.

“The shelling of Eretz is a part of our response to Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank”, the statement affirmed.

Israeli media reports confirmed that four Israeli soldiers were slightly injured when the checkpoint and vicinity was hit by four shells. and that four shells have landed on the vicinity of Eritz checkpoint, which is a major transport artery for the 1.4 million-population Gaza Strip.

The checkpoint is a major transport artery for the 1.4 million people of the Gaza Strip. Since the eruption of the second Intifada in 2000, the Eretz checkpoint, also known as Beit Hanoun checkpoint, has been frequently closed by the Israeli army under the stereotypical pretext of security. As a direct result, tens of thousands of Gaza workers and travelers have been denied access to Israel and the West Bank. The checkpoint is also used to transport those needing medical attention in Israeli hospitals.

Earlier this week, Israeli media outlets pointed out that rocket attacks have been reduced considerably due to intensified Israeli army attacks on the movement’s operatives in Gaza.

At least 54 Palestinians, including nine children, have been killed and about 180 others wounded since the Israeli army launched its aerial offensive on Gaza on May17. In the same period, homemade shells have caused two deaths and dozens of injuries in Sderot and other nearby Israeli towns.

President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are scheduled to meet on June7 in line with their policy of bi-weekly meetings. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, however, said that the current violence would overshadow the talks and called for immediate measures to calm the current crisis, stating, “Violence brings violence.”

In a related development, representatives of the unity government are meeting separately in Cairo with Egyptian officials, in an attempt to reach a compromise on a renewed ceasefire with Israel and an end to Hamas-Fatah infighting.

Other Palestinian factions have joined the talks in the hope of setting-out a unified stall regarding any potential ceasefire proposal, to be submitted by President Abbas to the Israeli government.

Abbas’s current offer involves a one-month-long mutual ceasefire with Israel in Gaza, to be extended to the West Bank at a later date. Israel has rejected this offer.

The Gaza Strip and West Bank make up the Palestinian Authority’s area of autonomous rule, established in 1993 following the declaration of principles between Israel and the Palestinians, known as the Oslo accords.