Israel-Gaza Violence Falls as Truce Takes Hold

Posted March 13th, 2012 at 4:55 am (UTC-5)
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Egypt has negotiated a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, after four days of fighting that killed at least 25 Palestinians.

Israel halted its airstrikes in Gaza and the number of Palestinian rocket attacks dropped steeply after thedeal went into effect early Tuesday.

There was no official confirmation of a cease-fire from Israel or officials in Gaza.

An Egyptian security official said the agreement includes an Israeli pledge to halt “assassinations,” but a senior Israeli defense official denied such terms were made. Amos Gilad said in a radio interview that Israel will defend its citizens if necessary. However, he said “quiet” from the Palestinian side will be met with “quiet” from the Israelis.

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have wounded at least 80 people, since Friday. Israel says most of those killed have been militants.

The militants have fired more than 100 rockets at southern Israel, wounding several Thai agricultural workers, forcing schools to close and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for most of the rocket fire.

The Quartet of Mideast peace mediators called for calm in the region, in a statement released Monday after a meeting of representatives in New York.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also expressed grave concern about the latest escalation in violence between Gaza and Israel, saying civilians are paying a “terrible price.” In remarks to the Security Council Monday, he said rocket fire on Israeli civilians is “unacceptable”, and he urged Israel to exercise “maximum restraint.”

The fighting began Friday when an Israeli airstrike killed two senior Gaza militants who Israel says were planning an imminent attack. Israel says one of the militants, Zuhair al-Qaissi, plotted an attack last August in which terrorists sneaked into southern Israel from Egypt and killed eight people.