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Palestinian attack was a cover for abduction attempt - media

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TEL AVIV, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - A missile attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip Tuesday was a cover for an attempted abduction of Israeli military personnel, Israeli media said referring to Army sources.

The Israeli Army said Palestinian gunmen had fired five missiles and eight mortar shells into Israel without killing or wounding anyone. Hamas's armed wing said they fired 74 mortar shells and 19 missiles "in retaliation for Zionist crimes against our people," referring to Israeli strikes over the weekend that killed nine Palestinians.

The attack, newspapers said, was designed to divert the military's attention from an attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory by Hamas militants. The Army said Israeli troops had thwarted the attempt.

The latest fighting in the area was sparked by the abduction of an Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, in June. As three Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility for the incident, Israel sent troops into Gaza to secure the corporal's release.

Tel Aviv said his release is key to resuming the peace process with the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian government said Tuesday it wanted to preserve the truce, which began in November.

"The government believes it necessary to preserve the truce for the sake of the Palestinian people, and to deter Israeli violence," a Palestinian government press secretary said, adding the authorities were in talks with Palestinian factions to persuade them to honor the truce.

Hamas and the more moderate party Fatah agreed in February to form a national unity government in a bid to revive the peace process, stalled since Hamas came to power in January 2006, and to bring back financial support from the West suspended over the ruling party's refusal to recognize Israel and ultimately renounce violence.

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