الأربعاء , مايو 26 2021

Hamas 'to announce Gaza ceasefire'

Israeli troops on the Gaza border. 3 July 2014Israel moved more troops to the border of the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks

A ceasefire is due to be announced between Hamas and Israel following exchanges of fire along the border with the Gaza Strip, the BBC understands.

A source with the militant Palestinian group said a truce had been brokered by Egyptian intelligence officials.

Scores of rockets from Gaza have hit southern Israel in recent days and Israel has responded with air strikes.

Meanwhile, tensions are high in East Jerusalem ahead of the planned funeral of a murdered Palestinian teenager.

There have already been two days of clashes there between masked Palestinians and police over the kidnap and murder of 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdair.

The motive for his killing has not been confirmed but there are claims it was an act of revenge for the recent murders of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.

The funeral has already been delayed, adding to the tension.

Undated family photo of Mohammed Abu Khdair, 2 JulyMohammed Abu Khdair, shown in an undated family photo, was seen being forced into a car

The Hamas source told the BBC that “intensive contacts” between the group and Egyptian officials “succeeded in reaching a new truce between Hamas and Israel, and that the ceasefire agreement was to be announced within hours”.

The source said Hamas was ready to put a halt to rocket fire in return for an assurance that Israeli would stop air raids.

The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says Egyptian military intelligence often provides a channel of communication between Israel and Hamas at moments of crisis.

He says Hamas – as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement – has been badly weakened by the Egyptian military government’s moves to crush the brotherhood at home and can’t afford a sustained escalation. Israel argues it only launches air-raids against Gaza in response to rocket fire.

The BBC’s Rushdi Abualouf in Gaza City says contacts between Hamas and Egypt appeared to have calmed the situation on the ground.

The number of rockets fired at southern Israel has dropped and Israel has not launched any fresh air raids into Gaza, he says.

Earlier, Israel deployed extra forces along the border with the Gaza Strip after several barrages of rockets struck targets in southern Israel.

The Israeli move prompted fears of a major escalation of the violence.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would only act against further rocket attacks.

“We are ready for two options in the south. If fire toward our towns in the south ceases, then so shall our actions. The second option is that if fire toward our residents in the south continues, then our bolstered forces there will act forcefully,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, 10 Palestinians were injured in an Israeli air strike on Gaza. Air raid sirens sounded in communities across the south of Israel and a soldier was reported to have been slightly injured by a rocket strike in Eshkol.

Israeli right-wing protesters in southern Israeli town of Sderot. 3 July 2014Some residents of southern Israel made a show of defiance amid the rocket attacks

In East Jerusalem, the funeral of Mohammed Abu Khdair had been due to take place after noon prayers on Thursday.

As the time for the burial approached, the family appeared to accuse the Israeli authorities of holding the body unnecessarily – a claim denied by police.

Officials said the funeral had been delayed so that a post-mortem examination could be completed. The teenager’s family said police had told them his body would be released early on Friday, but it is understood that there could still be further delays.

The post-mortem examination is being conducted by Palestinian and Israeli doctors.

The teenager was seen being forced into a car in Shufat, East Jerusalem, early on Wednesday and his body was later found in West Jerusalem.

It came after the bodies of the three Israeli seminary students were found near the city of Hebron on Monday, two-and-a-half weeks after they were abducted. Their funerals took place on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu blamed their deaths on Hamas and called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon a partnership his Fatah movement had struck with the group. Hamas has denied any involvement in the murders.

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