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MENAFN - Arab News - 15/03/2014
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(MENAFN -Arab News) jerusalem/gaza: israeli military forces and a small armed faction in the gaza strip traded airstrikes and rockets fire, pushing cross-border violence into a third day despite a truce called by powerful palestinian group islamic jihad


The clashes have been the most intense since the gaza war of november 2012. this time, however, casualties have been scant with winter rains keeping many people indoors, and israel’s iron dome interceptor shooting down some of the palestinian rockets. most israeli strikes have hit unmanned militant facilities


In a related devlelopment, palestinian president mahmoud abbas is leaving for washington where he will meet us president barack obama on monday to try to break the stalemate, as pessimism growing by the day over the future of middle east peace talks


The deadline for the negotiations between israelis and palestinians, aimed at ending their entrenched conflict, expires next month and washington is eager to persuade the two sides to prolong their discussions within a new framework


On thursday afternoon, islamic jihad leader khaled al-batsh announced that a deal that had been brokered by cairo to end the 2012 war was back in effect, provided the israelis also complied


“following intensive egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for calm has been restored,” he said on facebook


Within hours, however, the popular resistance committee (prc), a gaza splinter group, said it had launched eight rockets into israel. at least four struck open areas and one was downed by iron dome, the israeli military said


Israel’s air force then bombed a prc camp in southern gaza and “three other terror sites” to the north, the military said


There was no immediate word of any injuries. on thursday morning, before the islamic jihad cease-fire announcement, three palestinians were hurt in an israeli air strike


On wednesday, israel carried out 29 air strikes and its tanks shelled militant targets in gaza as islamic jihad fired 60 rockets. there were no casualties in wednesday’s in recent months, however, hamas has sought to maintain calm after being weakened by the fall of sympathetic politicians in cairo and by the resulting clampdown on arms and commercial smuggling from egypt to gaza


Israel’s hard line foreign minister avigdor lieberman, has called for gaza to be retaken and hamas crushed. such actions would prove to be bloody and damaging for peace talks with the rival us-backed palestinian administration in the occupied west bank


“the only solution to this situation of a ceaseless cycle of terror is reoccupation of gaza and a clean-out of the stables there,” lieberman said on facebook on thursday


Netanyahu, however, sounded more restrained. he vowed israel would “hit back with increasing force” against anyone who tried to ruin celebrations over the next few days of the jewish festival of purim


Israel did not publicly respond to islamic jihad’s truce announcement but one of its senior defence officials said earlier on thursday he expected the fighting to die down soon


Palestinian sources noted that hamas had not joined in the rocket attacks, an apparent sign that it hoped to avoid a wider conflict, but it did not immediately act to stop the launches, either


Islamic jihad has strong ties with iran, israel’s arch-foe, and it is the second largest faction in the enclave


Last week israel’s navy seized a ship in the red sea. israeli officials said it was ferrying advanced iranian-supplied rockets to gaza.


 


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