The five missiles appeared to be retaliation after Israeli troops killed Palestinian protesters at the border fence.

The five missiles appeared to be retaliation after Israeli troops killed Palestinian protesters at the border fence Fares AkramBenjamin NetanyahuFive rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, the military announced, following a day of mass protests that saw Israeli troops kill four Palestinians near the territory's border.

The rocket attack threatens to undermine Egyptian-mediated efforts to cement a deal that the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers hope will ease a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockage of the crowded territory.

No casualties were reported and no Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rockets, though they appeared to be in retaliation for the deaths of the protesters.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of their mass protests along the Israeli border.


Most demonstrators kept their distance from the border, though small crowds of activists approached the perimeter fence and threw stones and explosives towards Israeli troops on the other side. The forces responded with tear gas and opened fire, killing four Palestinians and wounding 64.

Hamas had pledged to keep the crowds a safe distance from the fence to avoid inflaming the political atmosphere during negotiations of a possible easing of the blockade.

Hamas officials say that Israel is offering a package of economic incentives in exchange for calm along the volatile border.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said the group had received "positive signs" from the Egyptians. He added that the Egyptian team was to return to Israel today to continue the talks. "We will continue our marches until all our goals are achieved," he said.

Israel and Hamas, bitter enemies that have fought three wars and dozens of smaller skirmishes, both have a strong interest in keeping things quiet.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking his fourth consecutive term in April 9 elections, but is facing a serious challenge from a group of ex-army chiefs who have criticised what they say is his failed Gaza policy. With a lack of alternatives, Netanyahu has been forced at times to rely on Hamas to maintain stability along Israel's volatile southern front.

In the final stretch of the campaign, Netanyahu needs to keep the Israel-Gaza frontier quiet, without seeming to make concessions to Hamas. Netanyahu took heavy criticism last week for what was seen as a soft response to renewed rocket fire out of Gaza.

Hamas faces growing unrest in Gaza as a result of worsening conditions after more than a decade of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade. The two countries imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority. The blockade has helped drive unemployment over 50 per cent, led to chronic power outages and made it extremely difficult for Gazans to travel out of the territory.


Last month, Hamas violently suppressed several days of public protests, staged under the slogan "We want to live," over the dire conditions.

Speaking on the group's Al-Aqsa TV station, Hamas' top leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, praised the protesters. "With this big turnout, our people say, 'We want to live!" His use of the protesters' slogan appeared to be aimed at diverting the recent criticism of his group. Hamas blames the blockade and punitive measures by its West Bank-based Palestinian Authority for worsening the living conditions.

- AP