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Rockets From Lebanon Hit Israel as Gaza Offensive Continues

Rockets from southern Lebanon were fired into northern Israel early Thursday, prompting Israeli forces to return fire, officials said as the Israeli military pressed on with its air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip.

Israeli rockets strike their target

There were no casualties in the rocket attack from Lebanon

At least two people on the Israeli side were lightly injured by the four Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon and several more were treated for shock.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attack from any Lebanese militant group.

A military spokeswoman said the Israeli army fired at the rocket-launching area inside Lebanon. She would not say what type of weaponry the army used.

It was unclear whether Thursday morning's rocket fire was an isolated incident, or whether it marks the opening of another front in the violence between Israel and Islamist militants.

Meanwhile, residents in the southern Gaza border town of Rafah reported overnight heavy shelling by the Israeli military. The military said Israel had bombed another 15 smuggling tunnels running under the border with Egypt, as well as a house allegedly used by a militant commander who oversaw rocket attacks from the Rafah area aimed at nearby Israeli targets.

Some 5,000 residents of Rafah fled to two UN schools that had turned into shelters, after Israeli helicopters had dropped leaflets warning them to leave their homes along the Gaza-Egypt border, saying Hamas was using houses in the area to hide the entrances to tunnels used to smuggle weapons.

British Muslims: UK must pressure US

Israeli Arabs and left wing activists wave a Palestinian flag and banner during a demonstration

Anger at the Israeli offensive has been widespread in the Muslim world

Meanwhile, a group of leading British Muslims said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown must do more to pressure the US into condemning Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Representatives of Muslim organizations that have been addressing extremism in the UK wrote in an open letter to Brown that the 13-day siege of Gaza by the Israeli military would empower extremists and increase anger in Muslim communities in Western nations.

The letter urged Brown to "make concerted and successful efforts to convince the US administration of the dangers of its approach and to ensure the incoming Obama administration forges a more enlightened direction.

"As you are aware, the anger within UK Muslim communities has reached acute levels of intensity," said the letter from Usama Hasan, imam of Al-Tawhid mosque in London, and the Islamic Foundation's Dilwar Hussain, among others.

"The Israeli government's use of disproportionate force... has revived extremist groups and empowered their message of violence and perennial conflict.

"For Muslims in the UK and abroad, we run the risk of potentially creating a loss of faith in the political process.

"We also believe the UK -- bilaterally and as part of the EU -- has an important role to demonstrate to Israel that the threshold of acceptable behavior has been perilously transgressed," the letter said.

Israel wants US border presence

A Palestinian sits on top of cement bags waiting to be transported into Gaza over a blown up section of the Gaza-Egypt border

Israel wants the US to shore up its border with Egypt

The pleas came as Israel pressed on with both its air and ground offensive in Gaza on Thursday, as government officials were due to travel to Cairo to discuss truce proposals tabled by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak.

The Israeli delegation has said it wants to discuss the possibility of a permanent US presence along the Gaza-Egypt border, as part of the "guarantees" it is seeking from the Egyptians and the international community that the smuggling of further rockets and parts into Gaza will stop, Israeli media reported.

Israel said Wednesday it viewed Egyptian-French attempts to reach a diplomatic solution to the Gaza crisis "positively," but it also threatened to expand its ground offensive if the diplomatic attempts failed.

"Israel welcomes the (Franco-Egyptian) initiative and is working on it and is interested in its success," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. Israel insists on a halt to all rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip and a weapons embargo to be imposed on the Islamist movement, he said.

Hamas would 'consider peace proposal'

Hamas security forces are seen on a truck during a crackdown on the Fatah-linked Hilles clan

Hamas says it would consider laying down its arms

Hamas politburo member Mussa Abu Marzuk told al-Arabiya TV it would "respect and consider any proposal that calls for ending the (Israeli) aggression and for the withdrawal of the (Israeli) Army."

Hamas also opposed any possibility of international troops coming to the Gaza Strip to reinforce a truce, he said. Germany has expressed its willingness to send troops, if either side wanted such a force.

The Israeli cabinet authorized Wednesday a continuation of the Gaza offensive.

The Israeli delegation to Cairo includes Amos Gilad, the head of the Israeli Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's foreign policy adviser Shalom Turgeman.

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