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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Gaza militants halt rocket fire

Published 13/03/2014 | 11:22

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A trail of smoke from rockets fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel is seen in the skies above Gaza City (AP)
Palestinians walk past graffiti of rockets and an exploded Israeli tank in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip (AP)

Gaza militants have agreed to halt a wave of rocket fire on Israel, signalling an end to the heaviest fighting between the two sides since 2012.

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In two days of violence, militants fired more than 60 rockets into Israel, while Israel has carried out a series of air strikes in Gaza. No serious casualties have been reported.

Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batch announced today that his group had accepted an Egyptian-brokered plan to stop its attacks, if Israel agreed to a truce as well.

He said: "After the Egyptian brothers initiated contacts with us in the past few hours, we agreed to restore the calm. As long as the occupation (Israel) honours the calm, we will honour the calm, and instructions are being given right now to al-Quds brigades, our military wing, about this understanding."

A senior security official in Egypt, which has brokered similar truces in the past, said Egyptian intelligence officials had been in touch with both sides and brokered an agreement.

Israeli officials declined to comment or confirm any deal was in place.

Earlier today, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad struck the outskirts of two Israeli cities with rockets.

The Israeli military said it retaliated to the two days of attacks with renewed air strikes on "seven terror sites" in southern Gaza. In all, it said some 65 rockets had been fired into Israel.

Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said: "Since yesterday, there has seen a substantial deterioration in the safety of the residents in southern Israel. We have responded and will continue to do so in order to eliminate threats as they develop."

Until this week, both sides largely observed a cease-fire that ended the Israeli offensive against rocket launchers in November 2012.

At a meeting today with the visiting Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to step up the pressure on the militants.

He said: "Our policy in the south is clear. We harm those who try to harm us and respond fiercely to any attack.

"The terrorist groups in Gaza need to understand that they are dealing with a very determined government and a very strong army."

Mr Cameron also condemned the rocket fire.

Press Association

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