Israel and Gaza reach tacit truce

Negotiated by Egypt, both sides agree to hold fire but warn to resume fighting if attacked again.

    At least seven Palestinians have been killed and 40 wounded by Israeli airstrikes in the last five days [AFP]
    At least seven Palestinians have been killed and 40 wounded by Israeli airstrikes in the last five days [AFP]
    Israel and Palestinian leaders have reached a tacit truce that could prevent a new war in the Gaza strip after five days of clashes.

    The agreement, brokered by Egypt, was made on Monday night, with both sides warning that they would resume fighting if attacked again. 

    Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of Gaza's Hamas government, praised the main armed factions in the occupied Palestinian territory for agreeing to the truce.

    "They showed a high sense of responsibility by saying they would respect calm should the Israeli occupation also abide by it," he said during an unannounced visit to a hospital to see wounded Palestinians.

    Israeli warplanes carried out air strikes against several targets overnight, causing no injuries, although medics in Gaza said on Tuesday that a seventh person had died in the violence, succumbing to wounds he sustained on Saturday.

    Three Palestinian fighters and four civilians have been killed and 40 others wounded by Israeli fire since Saturday.

    Eight Israeli civilians were injured by some of the 115 rockets fired from Gaza and four soldiers were wounded by the anti-tank missile that hit their jeep and fuelled the fighting.

    Muslim Brotherhood anger

    Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood sharply criticised Israeli leaders over the airstrikes in Gaza, accusing them of escalating the conflict to score political points ahead of elections.

    In its statement, the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party referred to Israel as a "Zionist occupier" and a "racist state", placing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on
    the "fringes" of the "far right".

    "In the framework of elections that Israel is witnessing is a recent military escalation against occupied Gaza and the occupied Golan Heights," the statement said.

    "[The fighters] showed a high sense of responsibility by saying they
    would respect calm should the Israeli occupation also abide by
    it
    "

    - Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader

    Benny Begin, one of the Israeli officials who took part in talks initiated by Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli's prime Minister, said the flare-up had subsided but the conflict was far from resolved.

    "This round of firing appears to have ended and things must be looked at soberly without illusions for both sides," he said.

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu himself, issued a heavy warning to Hamas over the violence. 

    "Whoever thinks they can harm the routine lives of southern residents without paying a very heavy price is mistaken," he said in a radio speech. "And I am responsible for us exacting this price at the most proper time".

    Egypt mediation

    An official involved in the Egyptian mediation confirmed both sides were ready to stop.

    "The message was clear and Israel too told Egypt they were not interested in escalation if rocket firing stopped. The situation now is calm for calm and I hope it does not deteriorate," the official told Reuters

    Israel struck three targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Tuesday, including what the army said was a weapons depot and two rocket launch sites. There were no casualties.

    Only one Palestinian rocket strike was reported in Israel by 0800 GMT on Tuesday.

    Defence Minister Ehud Barak told reporters Israel was not prepared to forgive and forget following four days of violence.

    "The matter has definitely not ended and we will decide how and when to act at the time when there will be a need," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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