A Hamas member
said on Tuesday Egypt had brokered a Gaza
ceasefire deal that would go into effect within hours, but a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said "we're not there yet."
"An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at 9 o'clock (1900 GMT) and go into effect at midnight (2200 GMT)," Hamas' Ayman Taha told Reuters from Cairo, where intensive efforts have been under way to end seven days of fighting.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told Reuters the announcement was premature and Israeli military operations in Gaza, territory run by Hamas terrorists, would continue in parallel with diplomacy.
"We're not there yet," Regev said on CNN. "The ball's still in play."
Earlier, Egypt's state media quoted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as announcing "that the farce of Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip will end on Tuesday."
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Morsi said, according to the reports, that "efforts to conclude a truce between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will produce positive results in the next few hours".
Details of the agreement remain unclear, but Al-Jazeera reported that Egypt would serve as the guarantor of the ceasefire. It was further reported that Israel and Hamas agreed to end all hostilities, including targeted killings.
Al-Jazeera said the ceasefire will be declared during a press conference in Cairo with the participation of Egyptian mediators and representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Shortly after the reports of an imminent ceasefire surfaced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would be a "willing partner" in a ceasefire with Gaza's ruling terrorists group Hamas.
Netanyahu made the pronouncement at a meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who is in the region as part of an international diplomatic push to end nearly a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The PM said that "if a long-term solution can be put in place by diplomatic means, Israel will be a willing partner."
Israel launched the offensive last week to end months of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Ban has condemned the rocket attacks but urged Israel to show "maximum restraint." He also has offered his services to help broker a truce. During the joint press conference he warned that further escalation would be dangerous and tragic both for Israel and the Palestinians and would endanger the entire region. He called on Israel and Hamas to hold their fire.
Netanyahu (L) with Ban (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was heading to the region from Asia and was expected in Jerusalem late on Tuesday for talks with Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Amid international efforts mounted to stop the fighting and avert a possible Israeli ground invasion of the densely populated Gaza Strip, Israel pressed on with air strikes and Palestinian rockets flashed across the border on Tuesday.
"No country would tolerate rocket attacks against its cities and against its civilians. Israel cannot tolerate such attacks," Netanyahu said with UN chief Ban, who arrived in Jerusalem from talks in Cairo, at his side.
"If a long-term solution can be put in place through diplomatic means, then Israel would be a willing partner to such a solution," he said.
"But if stronger military action proves necessary to stop the constant barrage of rockets, Israel will not necessary to do what is necessary to defend our people," said Netanyahu, who is favored to win a January general election.
Israel's military on Tuesday targeted about 100 sites in Gaza, including ammunition stores and the Gaza headquarters of the National Islamic Bank. Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry said six Palestinians were killed.
Israeli aircraft reportedly killed three Hamas terrorists in Gaza on Tuesday. Two of them were involved in the rocket fire on Israel. In addition, IDF airstrikes and artillery fire were targeting dozens of terror targets throughout the coastal enclave.
Israeli police said more than 150 rockets were fired from Gaza by late afternoon, many of them intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome system. Ten people were wounded in Israel, the military and an ambulance service said.
At around noon a rocket was fired toward the Jerusalem area for the second time since Operation Pillar of Defense was launched. However, the rocket landed in an open space in the Gush Etzion area. There were no reports of injury or damage.
Reuters, AP contributed to the report
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