Israel and Hamas Reach Cease-fire

Gaza/PNN/

Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire according to a foreign diplomat who said that the cease-fire is not part of a wider agreement being negotiated between the two parties.

Local sourcs in Gaza said that Palestinian factions have announced the ceasefire to the mediators in Qatar and Egypt.

A senior official in the Gaza Strip told reportes working in Gaza that the factions decided to stop the escalation yesterday at midnight, and informed the mediators in Egypt and Qatar, as well as UN envoy to the Middle East Nikolai Maldanov of that.

Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel reported that the cease-fire had taken hold “on the basis of mutual calm.”

An Israeli official said yesterday that the cease-fire report was incorrect, but this morning Home Front Command in Israel updated the safety instructions for the residents of the south Israel and announced a full return to routine in the city of Netivot and in the settlements of the Negev Center.

In the surrounding communities to Gaza borders, there has not yet been a return to routine but since midnight, no shooting has been recorded by Hamas or Israel.

Israeli news paper Hareetz reported that the cease-fire reached following an escalation in hostilities between Israel and Gaza beginning on Wednesday.

An Egyptian source told media that the cease-fire took effect at 11 P.M., while Reuters reported that a Palestinian official with knowledge of the talks said the cease-fire would begin at 11:45 P.M. local time last night.

An Israeli official, however, denied all reports of such an agreement being reached.

The conflicting reports came shortly after Israeli security officials said the chances of a full-fledged military operation in the Gaza Strip have decreased.

An Israeli official told Haaretz that while Hamas has been seeking to sign a cease-fire agreement through intermediaries since Thursday morning, Israel continued to attack high-profile targets.

Egypt said earlier Thursday that it has been working with both Israel and Hamas since Wednesday to prevent an escalation and continued attacks on the Strip.

According to an Egyptian source, Cairo is continuing its communication with various actors in order to restore the calm and prevent further flare-ups.

Gaza’s Health Ministry reported thursday  that three Palestinians were killed by the Israeli attacks, including a pregnant woman, 23, her 18-month-old toddler and a man, who was identified as 30-year-old Ali Alrandur the son of one of the commanders of Hamas’ armed wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam. Six other people were wounded by the strikes.

Hours after the rocket hit Be’er Sheva, the IOF renewed its attacks on Gaza, destroying a building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northwestern Gaza.

The strikes wounded 18 Palestinians, reports in Gaza said.

Palestinian sources, however, reported that the building housed a cultural center.

A source in Gaza said that the building is located near the house of senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is from al-Shati refugee camp.

A resident of the camp, where the building is located, said “the attacked building is an art and culture center which has no political or security use.

The building also serves the Egyptian community that lives in Gaza. There is no reason to target this building other than harming a Palestinian cultural symbol.”

The head of the Egyptian community in Gaza Adel Abd Al- Rahman said that the destroyed cultural center “serves thousands of of Palestinian mothers and was destroyed in a brutal and terrible way.”

The United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, released a statement late Wednesday night concerning the escalation between Israel and Gaza. “I am deeply alarmed by the recent escalation, particularly by today’s multiple rockets fired towards communities in southern Israel,” he wrote.

“For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants.

The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development,” Mladenov continued.

“Our collective efforts have prevented the situation from exploding until now. If the current escalation, however, is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people,” he warned.