Gaza militants say truce restored
by Staff Writers
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) March 13, 2014
Gaza’s Islamic Jihad announced Thursday that an Egyptian-brokered truce had been restored following a brief but intense confrontation a day earlier when Israeli warplanes pounded the Strip after heavy cross-border rocket fire.
But the truce, which was to have taken effect at 1200 GMT, was being tested after the Israeli military reported further rocket fire from Gaza hours later.
An army spokesman told AFP four rockets hit Israeli soil during the evening and another two were intercepted midair by the Iron Dome missile defence system.
Three rockets had also struck during the morning, he said.
On Wednesday at least 60 rockets hit Israel.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the Thursday rocket fire, but Gaza security sources linked what appeared to be a failed rocket attempt Thursday night to a Salafist splinter group.
They said the group may have been behind the explosion of a locally made projectile in the northern town of Beit Hanoun that injured five members of the same family, including a woman and two children.
Over the course of 24 hours, Israeli warplanes struck Gaza after militants fired scores of rockets over the border in the worst confrontation since an eight-day conflict in November 2012 between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza.
Although there were no casualties on either side, the violence was denounced by both Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and British Prime Minister David Cameron at a news conference in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton added her voice.
“I strongly condemn the recent rocket attacks on Israel, for which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation, has claimed responsibility,” she said in a statement
“There can be absolutely no justification for the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, and I call for an immediate end to such acts.”
Behind the scenes, Egypt worked to secure the renewal of a truce agreement to scale back the hostilities, officials in Gaza said.
“An Egyptian-brokered truce went into effect at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT),” Islamic Jihad spokesman Daud Shihab told AFP.
Attacks continue despite Gaza truce claims
Israeli air raids on camps of Palestinian armed groups follow new barrage of rockets fired from Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel has targeted suspected camps of Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip following a barrage of rockets fired from the territory.
Thursday was the second straight day of rocket attacks and air raids after an Israeli military operation against members of Islamic Jihad.
Islamic Jihad said that an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire had been restored, but the truce, which was to have taken effect at 1200 GMT, was being tested by continued violence.
“Israel Air Force aircraft targeted four terror sites in the southern Gaza Strip and three additional terror sites in the northern Gaza Strip,” a military statement released around Thursday midnight (2200 GMT) said.
Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout quoted Gaza-based medics as saying that three people were injured, one of them seriously, in the Israeli bombardment.
Behind the scenes, Egypt worked to scale back the hostilities, officials in Gaza said.
“An Egyptian-brokered truce went into effect at 2pm (1200 GMT),” Daud Shihab, Islamic Jihad spokesman, told AFP news agency.
Earlier, Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader, said Egyptian officials had contacted Hamas, which governs Gaza, to “restore the truce” with Israel in force since November 2012.
However, an Israeli defence official said he was “not familiar” with any ceasefire arrangement.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington DC, said the Israeli government was not commenting on the ceasefire.