Hamas says it will agree to ceasefire if Israel reciprocates

Gaza’s dominant Islamist Hamas movement said on Wednesday that Palestinian armed groups in Gaza have agreed to a ceasefire as long as Israel also ceases fire, after the most intense flare-up of fighting since a 2014 war.

Following dozens of rocket and mortar launches at Israel throughout Tuesday and overnight, and Israeli tank and air strikes in Gaza, there were no reports of violence more than two hours after the announcement of a truce by Hamas.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz sidestepped questions on Wednesday on whether Israel had agreed to a ceasefire but said it was not interested in an escalation towards war.

“It all depends on Hamas. If it continues (to attack), I don’t know what its fate will be,” Katz said on Israel Radio.

Authorities in southern Israel, where rocket warning sirens have sounded frequently since the Palestinian barrages began on Tuesday morning, said schools would open as usual.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the firing, saying it was in response to Israel’s killing of dozens of Palestinians since March 30, most of them in Gaza border protests.

Israel has long said it would not tolerate such attacks from Gaza.

“After the resistance succeeded in confronting the (Israeli) aggression … there was a lot of mediation in the past hours,” Hamas’ deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, said, in apparent reference to Egyptian efforts to end the fighting.

“An agreement was reached to return to the (2014) ceasefire understandings in the Gaza Strip. The resistance factions will abide by it as long as the Occupation does the same,” he said in a statement, using militant groups’ term for Israel.

By late on Tuesday, Israeli aircraft had hit 55 facilities belonging to militant groups in Gaza, including a cross-border tunnel under construction, in response to the Palestinian barrages, the military said.

Such potential targets are usually abandoned by militants when violence with Israel flares, and there were no reports of Palestinian casualties.

More than 100 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza towards Israel.

Source: www.jpost.com

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