Israeli aircraft fire on militants in Gaza Strip

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GAZA, Sep 13 (Reuters) Israeli aircraft fired on a car carrying Palestinian militants in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday after militant groups vowed no let-up in cross-border rocket attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

At least one Islamic Jihad militant was injured in the Israeli attack, which came two days after the group claimed joint responsibility for firing a makeshift rocket that wounded at least 35 Israeli soldiers in a training camp for conscripts.

Palestinian residents reported seeing Israeli army activity in northern and central Gaza, with flares lighting up the night sky and helicopters hovering overhead.

An army spokesman declined to comment.

Hamas's government in the Gaza Strip today called on militants to stop firing rockets and mortar bombs at border crossings with Israel that are used to bring food and other supplies into the territory.

A government spokesman said such attacks should be stopped to ''preserve the interest of the Palestinian people'', especially during Ramadan, which began this week.

Militant groups said they would consider the request on crossings, but have made clear they have no intention of stopping cross-border attacks on Israel.

An Israeli army spokesman said the car that was targeted on Thursday had been carrying militants ''on their way to fire rockets at Israel''.

The car was carrying four Islamic Jihad members, including a local commander, militants said.

At least two makeshift rockets were fired at Israel early on Thursday. No damage or injuries were reported, the army said.

CROSSINGS ATTACKED Gaza's main border crossings have been closed since Hamas took over the coastal strip in June. But Israel allows aid groups to use smaller crossings, including Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz, Erez and Sofa, to bring in food, medicine, fuel and other basic supplies for Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

Rocket attacks on these crossings have forced aid groups to temporarily call off some shipments.

Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader, said the group would study Hamas's call to stop the attacks.

The rocket attack that injured the Israeli soldiers on Tuesday prompted calls within Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government for tougher reprisals.

Hamas's armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, said the group was prepared to defend Gaza against any large-scale incursion.

''We will teach the occupation new and painful lessons,'' spokesman Abu Ubaida said.

One militant group aligned with Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees, said it began what it called its ''Death Campaign'' to intensify rocket fire into Israel throughout the month of Ramadan. Islamic Jihad has made a similar threat.

Hamas said it has not fired any of its own Qassam rockets into Israel since taking over Gaza but threatened to start doing so in response to an Israeli incursion.

Hamas has been firing mortar bombs into Israel.

Reuters SZ VP0205

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