Palestinians report of ceasefire as Kassam hits South

Palestinian official says Hamas, Israel agree to truce shortly before rocket explodes near Ashkelon; no injuries or damage reported; 13 rockets, mortars in total launched from Gaza in latest day of attacks.

April 10, 2011 23:30
2 minute read.
A rocket being fired from the Gaza Strip

Kassam rocket being fired from Gaza Strip 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)


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GAZA- A Palestinian official close to UN-and Egyptian-mediated negotiations told Reuters on Sunday that Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza had agreed a truce, as cross-border violence abated.

"Palestinian factions have agreed to halt rocket fire and Israel agreed to cease attacks on the Gaza Strip," the Palestinian official said.

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There was no official confirmation from either side, but a senior Israeli official told Reuters: "We will judge the other side over the next few days. The extent to which Hamas controls the other militant groups will affect the way we choose to act."

The official spoke shortly before a Kassam exploded near Ashkelon Sunday night. No injuries or damage were reported.

The rocket fire came after talks earlier Sunday of a deescalation in violence between Israel and Hamas.

However, as the situation in the South seemed to quiet down, the security cabinet earlier in the day empowered the IDF to "continue acting against terrorist elements in order to stop the firing on Israel and return quiet and routine to the south."

The security cabinet met following the weekly cabinet meeting and was briefed on the situation in and around Gaza over the last few days.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who went to visit an Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system in Ashkelon after the security cabinet, said it was Israel's intent that quiet return to the south. "I hope that is also Hamas' intention. If that is its intent, then the quiet will return.  If Hamas increases its attacks, it will feel the might of our response, which will be much, much harder."

The IDF, Netanyahu said, dealt Hamas painful blows following its "criminal attacks" on Israel. "There is no state that would be willing to absorb the intentional firing of an anti-tank missile on a school bus, to say nothing of criminal attacks on civilians. And Israel is certainly not willing to tolerate this"

Netanyahu praised the Iron Dome system, those who developed it and operate it, saying it was a "very impressive technological feat."  At the same time, he said, it was necessary to understand that it was impossible, even with all the technological developments, to protect every house and installation in the country.

"We can do a lot more, Netanyahu said, "but in the final analysis our true defense is a combination of defensive capabilities with deterrent offensive capabilities."

In addition to empowering the IDF to do what it takes to bring down the attacks from Gaza, the security cabinet, according to a statement put out after the meeting, approved a large scale national homeland security drill.  The message that the government was trying to send with this announcement, one government official said, was that it was taking all measures – offensive and defensive – to protect the country's civilians.

Netanyahu visited Ashkelon along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak who said at the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in Gaza, and that it did not differentiate between Hamas' political and military echelons – a reference to reports that Hamas' political echelon was opposed to the attacks that were carried out by the group's military arm.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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