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Gaza ceasefire calm after fights, protests expected

12 August 2018
Gaza ceasefire calm after fights, protests expected

Two Palestinian officials said on condition of anonymity that Gaza militants halted rocket fire at noon on Thursday.

In Israel, both in the political echelon and in the security establishment, it is estimated that the "big deal" with Hamas will not be in the near future.

The Egyptian-brokered talks between Israel and Gaza over a cease-fire began last week but have yet to reach any agreements.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 180 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel, with 30 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

A Hamas spokesperson, Abdul Latif al-Qanoa, said that Hamas militants were "defending its people against the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza as part of its national duty". "Even the most respected news sources bow Israeli pressure to present Israel's war crimes as passively as possible".

The Israeli army said they held Hamas "fully responsible" for the escalation in violence, and that it was "determined to secure the safety of Israelis, is on high alert, & prepared for a variety of scenarios".

Calm returned to Gaza and neighbouring areas of Israel Friday after a deadly flare-up between Palestinians and the Israeli military, but fresh protests could test the embryonic truce.

The room where Inas al-Khamash was killed with her toddler daughter and unborn child the previous night, Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, 9 August 2018. Israeli officials said seven people were wounded by rocket or mortar fire on the Israeli side.

Beginning on Wednesday night and into Thursday, fireballs and explosions shook the Gaza Strip while plumes of smoke rose from the enclave.

Air raid sirens sounded nearly nonstop in southern Israel from sundown on Wednesday, warning residents to stay in shelters as more than 80 rockets were fired in their direction.

A flare up in cross-border violence has seen three Palestinians killed in Israeli air raids, and Hamas rockets fired into southern Israel. A Hamas militant was killed in one strike, with at least 12 others injured, the health ministry in Gaza said. The rocket that hit an open area outside the major Israeli city of Beersheba caused no damage or injuries.

Palestinian media reported that Israel fired smoke shells, apparently meant to create a smoke screen, to evacuate the workers.

"What I can say is that we targeted by definition only military targets that were clearly used by Hamas where there was an active presence of Hamas and nothing else", he told journalists. At least five other civilians were also wounded.

Netanyahu was due to convene the security cabinet later to assess the situation. Hamas, therefore, should not force Israel to pull a "red card" against it, and should instead reconsider its approach.

The U.S. State Department condemned the launching of missile attacks into Israel.

Israel captured Gaza in a 1967 war but withdrew in 2005, while holding onto most of the separate West Bank, where Palestinians have limited self-rule. Palestinians have thrown explosive devices and opened fire at forces along the border in numerous instances over the past few months, the military says.

Wednesday's cross-border escalation is believed to have started after an IDF tank struck Hamas posts in Gaza, in retaliation for an attack on a vehicle involved in the construction of a barrier along the border.