More reports on: Defence general

Israel weighs Egypt-sponsored Gaza truce as Hamas rains rockets

16 July 2014

Israel today said it is weighing an Egyptian proposal to end the week-old Gaza conflict even as Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and a Hamas leader said the Islamist militants are still undecided on accepting the ceasefire.

Under the ceasefire proposal announced by Egypt's foreign ministry, a mutual "de-escalation" of fighting was to begin at 9 am (0600 GMT), with hostilities ceasing within 12 hours.

High-level delegations from Israel and the Palestinian factions would also hold separate talks in Cairo within 48 hours to consolidate the ceasefire with "confidence-building measures".

Hamas's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, rejected the terms of the blueprint announced by Egypt, whose military-backed government has been at odds with Hamas.

"Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity," reports quoted the militants as saying.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official who was in Cairo, however, said the movement had made no final decision, reports said.

Meanwhile, live television reports showed rocket salvoes being fired at Israel after 9 am and the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting several projectiles over the port city of Ashdod.

A factory in Israel was hit. However, emergency services said no one was hurt.

Sirens sounded in other parts of southern Israel after what Channel Two television reported volleys of at least 10 rockets.

Israel said it had halted its attacks in the Gaza Strip but would respond strongly if Palestinian strikes persisted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet approved the Egyptian offer at a meeting at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, an official statement said. Political sources said the vote in the forum was 6-2.

"We are still in consultation and there has been no official position made by the (Hamas) movement regarding the Egyptian proposal," Moussa Abu Marzouk, who was in Cairo, said in a Facebook post.

The Islamist group denied having received an official ceasefire proposal, and repeated that its demands must be met before it lays down weapons.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence official and envoy to Cairo, told Israel's Army Radio that Hamas had tried every possible means of striking at Israel.

Hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel have caused no fatalities, largely due to Iron Dome anti-missile shield. But the strikes have disrupted life across the country and sent people rushing into shelters.

Israel had mobilised tens of thousands of troops for a land fight in Gaza if the rocket salvoes persisted. "We still have the possibility of going in, under cabinet authority, and putting an end to them (the rockets)," Gilad said.

In overnight attacks, Israel said it had bombed 25 sites in Gaza. Palestinian medical officials said a 63-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were killed.

The conflict over the past week was prompted by last month' s murder of three Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank over the revenge killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem on 2 July.

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