Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip have agreed to an Egyptian proposal to halt rocket fire into southern Israel and a cessation of Israeli operations in the strip, according to an Egyptian official quoted by Reuters early this morning. The agreement aims to end four days of cross border violence and was set to take effect at 1 a.m. local time (2300 GMT).
However, two rockets and a mortar shell were fired into Israeli overnight, raising concerns that the ceasefire may not be upheld by all the factions in Gaza. About 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza at southern towns and cities in Israel since fighting erupted Friday, after Israel targeted the commander of the Palestine Resistance Committees (PRC) who was planning an attack on Israel. Eight Israelis have been injured by the rockets, dozens of which were shot down by Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defence system without causing damage. Twenty-five Palestinians are reported killed since the start of the escalation, most of them members of armed groups involved in the firing of rockets, though Gazan authorities claimed that two civilians were among those killed on Monday.
Israeli Civil Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio, “At the moment the direction is toward calm and it appears, unless there are last minute developments, that this round is now behind us.”
It is still unclear whether the agreement, which was accepted by Hamas officials who control the Gaza Strip, will be respected by Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PRC groups who led the rocket fire in recent days. Though Hamas has an interest in restoring calm, its ability or willingness to impose its will on other factions is still unclear.