Gaza crisis: 72-hour fragile ceasefire begins

SansadTV Bureau

israel_armyAn uneasy 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and the Palestinian militant groups began Tuesday morning after a month of fighting, with Hamas firing a salvo of long-range rockets minutes before the truce, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres”.

Minutes before the ceasefire took hold at 8 a.m. (local time), Hamas fired a barrage of long-range rockets, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres”, referring to the killing of nearly 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Six of the 17 rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by the anti-missile Iron Dome defence system, the army said.

The rockets caused minor damages but no injuries.

Shrapnel landed in the greater Jerusalem area indicating an Iron Dome interception over the area, security sources said.

The Israeli forces responded with artillery fire, but the guns fell silent just before the truce came into effect.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that troops operating in Gaza were being pulled out completely but reserves have not been released from service.

“The Israel Defense Forces will be redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions,” Lt Col Peter Lerner said.

“The IDF is prepared to retaliate to any move by Hamas to break the truce,” he added.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet ministers late Monday night that he had agreed to a three-day ceasefire with Hamas starting Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for Hamas, the Islamist faction that controls the Gaza Strip, simultaneously announced just after midnight that the militant factions had also decided to accept the initiative which stipulates that further discussions will take place in Cairo to try and reach a permanent agreement.

Officials at the Gaza Ministry of Health said that the four-week conflict has killed about 1,880 Palestinians – most of them civilians. Some 67 Israelis, all but three of them soldiers have also died.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Tuesday calling for both parties to respect the terms of the truce.

Ban urged both sides to meet in Cairo and start talks for a long-term cease-fire agreement “as soon as possible.”

It was not immediately clear as to when an Israeli delegation would head to Cairo for indirect talks on a long-term agreement.