Rocket launching cell (archives)
Photo: AP

Hamas holding fire 'at Egypt's request'

Senior group member says armed Gaza factions observing 24-hour halt to rocket fire against Israel, might consider longer truce if Jewish state reciprocates by ceasing all military attacks in Gaza, lifting blockade. Despite declaration, two rockets fired into Israel Monday afternoon

After three days of incessant firing of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, only two Qassam rockets landed in the western Negev since Sunday night. 


One rocket landed in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council and another landed near a road in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, without causing injuries or damage.


A senior member of the ruling Islamist Hamas group explained on Monday that Palestinian armed factions in the Gaza Strip were observing a 24-hour halt to rocket fire against Israel at the request of Egyptian mediators.


Ayman Taha said the brief ceasefire went into effect on Sunday evening. He said Hamas might consider a longer truce if Israel were to reciprocate by ceasing all military attacks in Gaza and lifting an embargo on the impoverished territory.


"Hamas and other factions agreed in order to give a chance to the Egyptian mediation and to show that the problem was always on the Israeli side," Taha told Reuters.


"If a new (truce) offer were made, which met our demands, then we would be willing to study it."


The surge of Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes over the weekend prompted calls in Israel to launch a wider offensive in Gaza.


Taha said any such escalation would be met by Palestinian retaliation including suicide bombings inside the Jewish state.


Weather preventing rocket fire?

Hamas did not link the temporary truce to the aid delivered by members of the Red Crescent in Egypt to the Strip. The trucks carried 40 tons of flour, 20 tons of oil and medical supplies. An Egyptian source at the Rafah crossing said his country had reached an agreement with Israel to allow the trucks to cross into the Strip.


Sources in Gaza, however, said the weather conditions were preventing the gunmen from launching rockets at Israel.


Meanwhile Monday, Egypt continued its effort to bring about a renewal of the truce. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit telephoned his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni on Monday morning and expressed his concern over the post-ceasefire situation in Gaza.


Livni told him the situation in southern Israel was escalating and made it clear that Israel has to defend its citizens and cannot remain indifferent in light of the situation. She added that Jerusalem still views Cairo as a mediator which may help calm the situation down.


A six-month Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas expired on Friday with exchanges of fire across the border, raising fears of a wider conflict. Despite the lull, Palestinian gunmen continued firing into Israel in the past six months.


Ilana Curiel and Shmulik Hadad contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 12.22.08, 13:48
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