Israel and Gaza Factions ‘Agree on Truce’

Egyptian official says Cairo has mediated a deal to end four days of violence in which 25 Palestinians have died.

Israel and factions in the Gaza Strip have agreed to an Egyptian-mediated truce to end four days of cross-border violence, a senior Egyptian security official has said.

The official said on Tuesday both sides "agreed to end the current operations" including an unusual undertaking by Israel to "stop assassinations" in a deal expected to take effect at 1 a.m. local time (2300 GMT Monday).

There was no immediate comment by Israel or the Palestinian factions regarding the deal.

Israeli air attacks in the Gaza Strip have killed seven more people, bringing the number of dead up to 25 since hostilities erupted in the Palestinian territory on Friday, according to Palestinian medical sources.

The Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad said two of the dead were members of its military wing, the al-Quds Brigades.

Israel has said it is hitting back at scores of rocket attacks, with more than 40 fired on Monday alone.

In a strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, a 65-year-old man and his daughter were killed.

Medics also reported at six air raids in the early hours of Monday that injured 35 people, and another two raids around the city of Khan Younis, which left two dead and two others wounded.

Medics said another strike killed a 15-year-old boy and injured six other students near a school in northern Gaza.

‘Strikes Are Continuing’

Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Gaza City on Monday, said there were rumors of a truce on Sunday night, "but that simply didn’t come to pass and the air strikes are continuing".

He quoted Islamic Jihad sources who said that the Egyptians, at the behest of Hamas – the Palestinian faction that governs the Gaza Strip – were trying to establish an informal truce between Israel and Palestinian groups.

However, our correspondent said, "Islamic Jihad is very reluctant to abide by that at the moment … They are extremely unhappy that the Israelis are pursuing what they call an ‘assassination policy’."

He said the group would likely reject any deal "unless they can get a guarantee from Israel that those assassination attacks will stop, and frankly I don’t think that guarantee is going to come."

Eighteen of the Palestinians killed since fighting flared on Friday were identified by medical officials as fighters and five as civilians. At least 74 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and three Israelis have been wounded in the past four days.

"Sometimes there is collateral damage, and of course Israel is sorry about that," Efraim Inbar, a defence analyst, said.

"Over the years we have perfected techniques, but it’s a war. And if we are hit then we have to hit back … No country in the world would accept missiles being shot at its citizens."

Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, said, "The main issue that people here are talking about is civilian casualties … and they are asking if Hamas’ military wing will get involved, with weapons far strong than those that Islamic Jihad is using."

Rocket Defences

Israel’s portable anti-rocket system, Iron Dome, which is designed to repel only missiles headed toward population centres, has a success rate of more than 85 per cent in the recent fighting.

The military says that of 143 rockets fired since Friday, it tried to intercept 63 and succeeded in all but nine of those attempts.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the latest raids, but earlier confirmed it carried out six strikes that "targeted a weapons storage facility and four rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as a rocket launching site in the southern Gaza Strip".

Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman, said Palestinian fighters had fired 11 rockets into Israel late on Sunday night, including one that damaged a building in a kibbutz near the Gaza border.

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Sunday that the operations would "continue as long as necessary".

Israel radio quoted him as saying during a tour of the country’s south that he had "given orders to strike all those who plan on attacking us".

The Palestinians and Israelis have made rival calls for the UN Security Council to act, as Israel hit back against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip with air strikes.

Tensions have mounted as the international Quartet on the Middle East – the US, Russia, EU and UN – holds its first top-level meeting in six months on Monday.

The deadlock in the Israel-Palestinian peace process will be discussed at the UN headquarters by the US secretary of state, Russia’s foreign minister and the UN secretary-general. Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, was expected to join the meeting via videoconference.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, said the Security Council must "act with urgency to address this crisis", accusing Israel of staging an "escalation of deadly violence and terror".

He said women and children were among "dozens" of wounded and that the dead also included a farmer killed while working in his field.

Mansour said that if Israel was not held accountable "this will only ensure the bolstering of its impunity and the further escalation of its crimes against the Palestinian people, with far-reaching consequences for the future of our people and the prospects for peace and stability to ever be realised".

In return, Israel criticised the international community’s "silence" over rocket attacks from Gaza, and said in a letter to the Security Council that it would take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians against the renewed barrage.

(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

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