Israel, Hamas attempt truce after 3 days of attacks

Hamas calls on Palestinian groups to abide by cease-fire agreement but Popular Resistance Committees says it "won't stop the resistance."

Masked Hamas terrorists 311 (R) (photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
Masked Hamas terrorists 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)
A tense cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appeared to go into effect on Sunday night as Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket attacks came to a near standstill following three days of violence.
But there was no official confirmation by the sides regarding the acceptance of the ceasefire and rockets continued to fall on Sderot and Ashkelon after 9 pm, when the cease fire was reportedly supposed to go into effect.
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Popular Resistance Committees spokesmen told the reporters that the organization did not agree to the truce and did not see itself as obligated to maintaining it.
According to Arab reports, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry delegation had arrived earlier in the day in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials who mediated the cease-fire between Israel and representatives of Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Defense officials said Israel was looking for a way to end the current round with Hamas, citing the lack of international support as one of the reasons Israel could not open a larger offensive against the Gaza Strip.
Nevertheless, Defense Minister Ehud Barak threatened Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations during a visit to an Iron Dome counter-rocket battery near Ashkelon, saying that the violence could continue for several more days.
“The risk to someone who fires rockets at Israel that his head will be separated from his body in an Israeli air strike is very high,” Barak said. “Our attacks are extremely effective, accurate and will continue for as long as necessary.”
Earlier in the day, the Israel Air Force bombed a Hamas military outpost in response to the more than 150 rockets and mortar shell that have struck Israel since Thursday, following the terrorist attacks near Eilat that killed eight Israelis. The IAF also attacked a rocket cell near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, more than 30 rockets struck Israel, including a Grad-model Katyusha that scored a direct hit on an empty high school in Beersheba and caused extensive damage. The IDF said that a mortar shell containing phosphorus was also fired into Israel near the Kerem Shalom crossing, which continued to facilitate the transfer of goods and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the IDF continued with its probe of Thursday’s attacks near Eilat. Barak said he had confidence in the army’s ability to probe itself and that he did not see a reason to appoint a special panel to investigate the way the IDF prepared for the attack, which it had received intelligence on several weeks earlier.
“In the IDF there is a genuine culture of investigating oneself, even if the public doesn’t always know about it,” he said. “I know the chief of General Staff, the head of the [Southern] Command and the commander of the [Edom] Division, and they are all officers who grew up in units where genuine and comprehensive investigations are their bread and butter.”
Hamas said on Sunday that it would abide by a cease-fire with Israel and urged all Palestinian groups to follow suit.
“Hamas is keen on maintaining the period of calm that has prevailed in the Gaza Strip in the past few months,” a Hamas official said. He stressed that Hamas did not participate in the recent wave of rocket and missile attacks on Israel.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday night phoned the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Force and urged him to intervene to secure a cease-fire with Israel, the official said.
Following intensive talks with representatives of various Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian authorities informed Hamas leaders that a cease-fire agreement would go into effect later in the day.
However, the Popular Resistance Committees, which lost several of its leaders to an Israeli air strike in Rafah on Friday, said it would not abide by any cease-fire.
Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the group, said that the PRC would continue to defend Palestinians against “Zionist aggression, arrogance and crimes.”
“Our position is clear – we have nothing to do with a cease-fire with the enemy. The enemy must bear the consequences of its crimes and we won’t stop the resistance,” he said.
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