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Gaza truce declared as Israel hails new missile defense

Al Akhbar | March 13, 2012

Israel and Islamic Jihad have agreed to a ceasefire after Egypt brokered a “mutual truce” following four days of an Israeli assault on Gaza that left 25 Palestinians dead and at least 80 injured, mostly civilians.

Israeli officials and Islamic Jihad both confirmed that a deal was in place, although they were quick to warn that the agreement would be short lived if the other side stepped out of line.

“There is an understanding, and we are following what’s going on in the field,” Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli public radio.

“Apparently things are calming down and this round of confrontations appears to be behind us.”

And in Gaza, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said the resistance group was willing to respect the deal if Israel would end its targeted killings of fighters.

“We accept a ceasefire if Israel agrees to apply it by ending its aggressions and assassinations,” Daud Shihab told AFP.

News of the agreement emerged early on Tuesday after Egypt brokered what the Egyptian intelligence official said was a “comprehensive and mutual” truce.

“An agreement on ending the current operations between the two sides, including a halt to assassinations, entered into force at 1:00am,” he told AFP, saying the deal was reached after the Egyptians held “intensive contacts” with both sides.

But the Israel minister denied there was any agreement to halt the military’s campaign of assassinations.

There was no immediate comment from Gaza’s Hamas rulers, who have been relatively silent during the latest round of violence. Hamas did not deploy any of its forces to defend Gaza from attack, nor fire any rockets into Israel in response.

Two Palestinians were killed Monday evening in the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, bringing the death toll in the besieged strip to 25 since Friday, according to medics.

The two men, who were members of the Al-Quds Brigades, were killed in an airstrike on the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, medical officials said.

The latest attacks began Friday evening when Israel killed the head of the Popular Resistance Committees in an airstrike near Gaza City.

Israel routinely carries out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, and has intensified its campaign in recent months, while Hamas insists on maintaining restraint.

Suspicions of a new war were raised after Israeli army chief Benny Gantz said in December that Israel should launch a “swift and painful” war against Gaza.

Israel’s previous war against Gaza in late 2008 killed at least 1,400 Palestinians and three Israeli non-combatants.

The Jewish state maintains a siege over Gaza and continues to build illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Testing Israel’s Iron Dome

The latest campaign tested Israel’s new Iron Dome short-range air defense system, designed to intercept rockets from Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

On Monday, 31 rockets headed for urban centers were targeted by Iron Dome, which scored 23 hits, the military said, a 75 percent success rate.

“The system is working very well,” Brigadier General Doron Gavish briefed reporters at one of the batteries in the vicinity of Ashdod, 25kms from the Gaza border.

“Rockets shot at the cities of Israel are being intercepted by the warriors who are operating the system,” said Gavish head of Israel’s national air defenses.

Visiting a battery on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the system’s “impressive achievements.”

The system, the first of its kind in the world, was developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with the help of US funding.

Each battery comprises detection and tracking radar, state-of-the-art fire control software, and three launchers, each with 20 interceptor missiles, military sources said.

The system is later to be deployed along the Lebanese border in the event of a future conflict with Hezbollah.

But a complete deployment is expected to take several years.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)

March 13, 2012 - Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , ,

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