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Hamas Calls 24-Hour Truce with Israel


After days of fighting with Israel, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have called a brief truce.

Armed Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip are observing a 24-hour ceasefire. The announcement followed the Palestinians firing of dozens of rockets at Israel since a six-month truce expired on Friday.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, that rules Gaza, said the new ceasefire was requested by Egyptian mediators.

Hamas to Consider New Truce if Gaza Blockade Lifted

Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said the group would be willing to consider a new truce offer if its demands are met. Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to open their border crossings and ease a crippling blockade on Gaza.

Israel had threatened harsh retaliation for the rocket attacks, but also said that it prefers to renew the ceasefire.

"Israel wants to see calm again prevail in the south," said government spokesman Mark Regev. But when you have got these ongoing rocket barrages it is the opposite of calm. And this situation just cannot continue."

Israel Weighs its Options

Israel is reluctant to invade heavily populated Gaza. It pulled out of the territory and dismantled 21 Jewish settlements there in 2005. It fears high casualties among Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians, and in turn international condemnation.

But Israel is also concerned that the longer it puts off an invasion, the better-equipped for battle Hamas will become.

The head of Israel's Shin Bet security service told the Cabinet that Hamas now has longer range rockets that can hit more Israeli cities. The desert city of Beersheba, 50 kilometers from Gaza, is now within range. The rockets were smuggled in through tunnels under the border with Egypt.

A major Israeli offensive in Gaza appears inevitable at some point, but if it happens, southern Israel could be bombarded by Hamas.

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