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Israel Reachs Truce With Palestinians to Halt Four Days of Gaza Violence

Published: March 13, 2012 | 9:00 am
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Israel and the Palestinians have reached an understanding to end the latest round of fighting in Gaza after Israeli air strikes killed at least 24 people and militants fired more than 160 rockets from the coastal enclave, wounding four.

“There are understandings, not written agreements,” Israeli Minister of Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio today. “There are basically understandings between different bodies on what is okay to do, and is not okay to do.”

A spokesman for the Islamic Jihad militant group, Dawood Shihab, said in a press statement that the two sides reached a truce after Egyptian mediation that took effect before dawn today. Three rockets fired from Gaza struck Israel today following the truce deadline. There were no Israeli strikes overnight, the army said.

This month’s bloodshed began with a March 9 Israeli air strike on what the army said were two militants planning an attack from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai, including Zuhir al- Qaisi, head of the Popular Resistance Committees. The rocket attacks and air strikes that followed have been the worst since August, when eight Israelis were killed in an attack near the resort of Eilat and at least 24 Palestinians died in subsequent air raids.

“Israel reserves the right to act as need be against the terrorists in Gaza,” Mark Regev a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said today in a phone interview when asked about reports of the cease-fire.

‘Serious Concern’
In New York, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined other members of the so-called Mideast Quartet yesterday in expressing “serious concern” about the escalation. The group – - composed of the U.S., United Nations, Russia and the European Union — called on Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from provocative actions,” according to a statement following a meeting at the United Nations.

Israel’s short-term government bonds rose yesterday, pushing yields lower for the first time in eight days, as demand for the country’s safer assets increased amid violence in the south.

The yield on the 3.5 percent notes due September 2013 fell nine basis points, or 0.09 percentage point, to 2.63 percent, the lowest since Feb. 29. The TA-25 benchmark stock index dropped the most in almost one week, declining 1.1 percent.

Rocket Sites
Gaza health official Adham Abu Selmeya said seven people were killed yesterday and 45 people injured. Israel disputed its involvement in the death of one of those killed, saying its aircraft weren’t active in the area where it was reported. The air force targeted a number of militants, rocket-launching sites and weapons storage facilities, the army said in an e-mailed statement.

Many of those killed in Gaza were members of Islamic Jihad, a small militant group supported by Iran and considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. Israel said it holds Hamas, which rules Gaza, responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory.

In 2008, Israel sent troops into Gaza during a three-week operation in which at least 1,100 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed.


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