PA, terror groups reach agreement to end Kassam fire

Egyptian-brokered deal reported to end Kassam attacks for Eid el-Fitr.

jihad car wreck 298 (photo credit: AP)
jihad car wreck 298
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority announced Sunday afternoon that it succeeded in arriving at an agreement with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad on suspension of Kassam attacks from the Gaza Strip as well as suicide bombings within Israeli territory. The agreement was initiated in order to improve the situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip prior to the beginning of the Eid el-Fitr holiday signifying the end of Ramadan. It was unclear whether the agreement was intended to extend beyond the holiday period. The announcement, which was officially issued to American authorities, was brokered with the help of Egyptian intervention. Additionally, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said Sunday that his group is committed to an informal cease-fire declared in February, but that the recent attacks were in response to Israeli actions. "We are committed to the mutual calm as long as the Zionists are committed to this calm," al-Batch said in a text message. Islamic Jihad said last week's suicide bombing was in response to Israel's killing of one of its leaders in a West Bank arrest raid. Al-Batch said Palestinian factions would meet late Sunday to discuss "the latest developments in the political arena ... and how to unify a Palestinian position." Egyptian mediators have been pressing the Palestinians to halt the fighting. An Israeli government official said "there appears to be an understanding" for both sides to halt the fighting, but said there was no official agreement in place. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. Capt. Yael Hartmann, a spokeswoman for the IDF, said the military's policy hasn't changed, and that new orders would have to come from the government. Prior to the two afternoon anouncements, projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip continued to strike the western Negev after a weekend of Kassams and IDF retaliation. On Sunday morning, a few hours after the latest Kassam strike, a mortar landed in an open area, causing no injuries or damage. In response, the IDF fired artillery at sites in Gaza. On Sunday morning, according to a reassessment of the security situation on the ground, the defense establishment decided to reopen the Karni goods crossing in northern Gaza and the Sufa goods crossing in Southern Gaza, allowing the entry of products into the Gaza Strip. The Erez Crossing that permits the entry of Palestinian laborers from Gaza into Israel remained closed, and the general closure imposed on Gaza and the West Bank following last week's deadly suicide bombing in Hadera remained intact. Hours earlier, on Saturday night a Kassam was fired at the western Negev. The IAF responded Sunday morning with artillery barrages against suspected Kassam launch sites. A Kassam was also reported to have fallen near Sderot earlier Saturday evening, following continued IAF airstrikes against Kassam-related infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip. IDF soldiers conducted searches in the area to determine where the rocket landed. As part of the continuing struggle against Kassam launches, IAF planes fired 11 missiles at open areas and roads in northern Gaza on Saturday morning. The IDF said that the targeted sites were used to launch rockets at southern Israel. No injuries were reported Earlier Saturday, jets fired missiles in three separate attacks in the northern Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. In the first of the three air strikes, aircraft bombarded a road joining Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, destroying it in an apparent effort to block terror operatives from approaching the border area, less than two kilometers away. A second round of missiles hit an open area east of Beit Hanoun, and a third targeted a site near the evacuated settlement of Dugit. These strikes came less than a day after another IAF strike in which two missiles were fired into a moving car, killing Al-Aksa Martyrs' Brigades member Majid Natat, 28. Security forces confirmed that Natat and the other passengers were on their way to launch Kassam rockets at Israel. An Al-Aksa spokesman, identified by the pseudonym Abu Ahmed, said an Israeli drone fired at the car after terrorists fired rockets at Sderot. "The occupation will pay a heavy price for this crime," he said. This, and another Friday strike, were in response to a Kassam rocket that was fired at the western Negev and landed in an open area between the kibbutzim of Karmia and Zikim without causing damage or injuries. Nearly a week of heavy air operations against Kassam launchers has heralded a toughened stance against terror activity in the Strip.