A five-day extension of a Gaza truce appears to be holding despite a rocky start, fanning cautious optimism of progress in Israel-Hamas negotiations in Cairo.
It’s the longest cease-fire yet since the war broke out last month in the Gaza Strip.
Violence briefly spiked as the extension of the truce was announced shortly before midnight Wednesday. Israel’s military says eight Hamas rockets were launched at Israel but that the firing stopped in the early hours Thursday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli forces to "respond" to two instances of rocket fire by Gaza militants at Israel in violation of the truce yesterday. The rockets caused no damage or casualties, and one was shot down by Israel's Iron Dome missile interceptor.
There were no reported casualties in the Israeli air raids that targeted at least three sites in northern Gaza, witnesses and Hamas said. Hamas denied involvement in one of the rocket shootings which sent sirens wailing across southern Israel.
Palestinian negotiators in Cairo expressed optimism that a deal to create a sustainable roadmap for the war-torn territory could soon be achieved.
As truce negotiations dragged on yesterday, Israel moved forces closer to Gaza and called up additional reservist troops, Israeli media reported. The military said its forces were "moved around on a routine basis" and would not elaborate.
In announcing the truce extension, Azzam Al-Ahmed, the head Palestinian negotiator in Egypt and a member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's mainstream Fatah faction, said the ceasefire had been extended by five days.
Abu Mujahed, spokesman for leading Gaza militant group the Popular Resistance Committees, said Palestinian factions had "accepted" that proposal.
The extension came in lieu of a broader deal which the parties meeting in indirect talks brokered by Egypt failed to reach in time for the earlier truce deadline.
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Egypt had presented a new proposal for a permanent truce agreement that addressed a major Palestinian demand for a lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Egypt harbour deep security concerns about Hamas, the dominant Islamist group in the small, Mediterranean coastal enclave, complicating any deal on easing border restrictions.
Reuters and AP