Gaza ceasefire reportedly brokered by UN official

Robert Serry acts as intermediary between Hamas, J'lem, Ma'an reports; official statements don't confirm deal, but hint at readiness.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
April 10, 2011 15:24
4 minute read.
United Nations Middle East envoy Robert Serry

UN spokesman Robert Serry (R) 311. (photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

 
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UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Roberty Serry successfully brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip including Hamas, Palestinian news agency Ma'an quoted senior Palestinian sources as saying on Sunday.

The deal, reportedly reached Saturday night stipulated that the IDF stop its air and artillery strikes against Palestinian terrorist groups, who also reportedly have agreed to halt their rocket and mortar fire.

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Neither Jerusalem nor Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have announced a ceasefire, but senior officials made statements Sunday hinting to their openness towards such a deal.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said early Sunday that Jerusalem was willing to accept a mutual ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza after several days of projectile fire and IDF strikes, adding that "If necessary, we will act, but," he said, "restraint is also a form of strength."

"If they stop firing on our communities, we will stop firing. If they stop firing in general, it will be quiet, it will be good," Barak told Israel Radio.

On the Gazan
the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, Al-Quds, said that it was committed to a ceasefire with Israel, saying it was in the "interests of our people not to give Israel an excuse to launch a major military operation in Gaza."

The announcement came only hours after the group claimed responsibility for firing three mortars and a rocket into Israeli territory Sunday morning.

Abu Ahmed, Islamic Jihad's spokesperson, said that his group would cease violence "so long as Israel fulfills it's responsibility and stops attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza."

Hamas also softened its language on Sunday.

The group's spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Sami Abu Zuhri, on said that "The Palestinian factions are not interested in escalation." He added, "if the Israeli aggression stopped, it would be natural for calm to be restored."

The Associated Press reported that, in a rare move, Hamas's Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad told Israel Radio in Hebrew that Hamas was "interested in calm, but want the Israeli military to stop operations."



The current round of violence began on Thursday when Hamas' armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, fired an anti-tank missile at an Israel school bus, leaving a 16-year-old in critical condition. Over the weekend, Palestinian terrorist groups in the Strip fired over 120 mortars, Kassam and Grad rockets into Israeli territory. Nearly two-dozen Palestinians, including members of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have been killed in IDF strikes.

Israel Radio reported that officials in Jerusalem had received a request from Hamas' political wing through intermediaries asking for a cease fire Saturday afternoon.

There appeared, however, to be a rift between the group's political echelon in Damascus and Gaza City and its armed wing in the Strip. According to a senior Palestinian security official, Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh accused Izzadin Kassam commander Ahmed Jabari of being a "megalomaniac," saying that he had begun the current escalation with Israel against the wishes of the group's political leadership, Israel Radio reported.

According to the source, Jabari's decision to escalate the situation was partly motivated by the assassination of his close friend, Ismail a-Lobed, who was the organization's point man for smuggling weapons into Gaza from the Sinai Peninsula.

Additionally, Hamas on Saturday claimed that "it was not known that the bus targeted on the outskirts of Gaza carried schoolchildren."

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Sunday expressed hope that Israel is not drawn into another war in the Gaza Strip but warned Hamas against testing Jerusalem's willingness to defend itself, in an interview on Army Radio.

"I don't recommend that Hamas test us in the coming days," he warned. "They have taken some hard hits and they will sustain even harsher ones" if they continue firing rockets and mortars at Israel, he said.

The deputy prime minister, who also serves as minister of strategic affairs, addressed internal arguments and power struggles taking place between Hamas' military and political echelons, saying that it "doesn't interest us." If Hamas is in charge of the Gaza Strip, he said, "they they are responsible" for what happens there.

He added that since the days of former PLO chairman Yassir Arafat, Jerusalem's policy has been that in any territory it doesn't control, it demands responsibility from whoever is in power.

Reuters contributed to this report

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