Hamas militant wing accepts cease-fire with Israel | News | DW | 20.06.2012
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Hamas militant wing accepts cease-fire with Israel

Militants in the Gaza Strip claim to accept a cease-fire with Israel after a spate of violence this week. Israel has expressed concern that militants are exploiting Egypt's instability to launch cross-border raids.

The militant wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas announced on Wednesday that it had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire with Israel, after an outburst of cross-border violence this week that has killed at least eight Palestinians and one Israeli.

"In response to the Egyptian efforts to try and stop the aggression on our people, we at al-Qassam Brigades and all resistance factions declare our commitment to stop this round of confrontation, as long as (Israel) commits to stopping its crimes," the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a release.

There has been no official statement from Israel regarding the cease-fire. The Jewish State usually does not comment publicly on such agreements, because it does not politically recognize Islamist groups - such as Hamas - that reject Israel's right to exist.

Concerns about Egypt stability

The recent round of violence began on Monday, when Islamist militants ambushed a construction team on the Egyptian-Israeli border, killing an Arab-Israeli worker. The worker was part of a team building a security fence designed to prevent militants from infiltrating Israel from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Two militants were shot dead in the incident. A little known group, which identified itself as the Mujahedeen Shura Council, claimed responsibility for the ambush.

Militants in the Gaza Strip have launched at least 50 rockets at southern Israel since Monday's ambush. Nobody has been killed in the rocket attacks.

"Our confrontation with the enemy in this round was at the minimal level of fire and responses, this is a message that the (Israeli) leaders should understand very well," the Qassam Brigades said in its release.

Israel has expressed growing concern that Islamist militants are exploiting Egypt's current political instability to establish a base of operations in the Sinai Desert, from where they can launch attacks against the Jewish state.

Israeli retaliation

Israel has launched several retaliatory air strikes on the Gaza Strip, killing at least eight Palestinians. An Israeli missile killed 21-year-old Ghaleb Ermilat on his motorcycle and wounded Mohammed Rashdan in the southern city of Rafah on Wednesday. The two men were involved in Monday's ambush, according to Israeli officials.

A Palestinian man looks at burnt cars outside a house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza Strip June 20, 2012. rocket fire into Israel earlier.

Israel claims the airstrikes have targeted "global jihadists"

The Israeli army said that Ermilat and Rashdan were members of Tawhid wal Jihad, a "global jihad terror movement that is responsible for ongoing terror attacks against Israel civilians and soldiers."

"Rashdan's terror activities included weapon transfers, supplying explosive devices to terror operatives, firing rockets at Israel, sniper and mortar fire, and smuggling terror operatives to and from Gaza," the army said in a release.

A second Israeli airstrike near Gaza City on Wednesday killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy, identified as Moumen al-Adam, and seriously wounded his father.

Israel's military chief, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, warned on Wednesday during a graduation ceremony for officer cadets that the army would respond forcefully to all attacks.

"The army is ready, and stands powerful and prepared to continue to react and initiate, and provide a response for every threat at any time," Gantz said.

slk/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)