(dpa) - Israel and Hamas have agreed on an informal truce in their fighting, media reports in Israel said Monday morning, but the Islamist movement was quick to deny it had reached any understanding with the Jewish state.
"The growing debate on calm (in the Gaza Strip) does not mean there is a deal or understanding," Hamas' spokesman Ayman Taha told reporters.
The denial comes as the number of rocket attacks on southern Israel has declined sharply in recent days, and the Israeli military has not launched any raids into, or airstrikes on, the Gaza Strip.
Taha said the lull was in fact due to "field tactics away from any political agreement."
The Jerusalem Post daily had earlier quoted Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah as saying that Israel and Hamas have reached "secret understandings" to stop the violence. The deal was reached under the auspices of Egypt, the unnamed officials said.
According to Israel Army Radio, quoting a "senior security source," Israel has formulated tacit, secret and indirect understandings with Hamas, under which it will refrain from attacking Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and Hamas will stop launching rockets and mortars at southern Israel.
The Ha'aretz daily reported that the Israeli government has ordered the military to "exercise restraint" in operations in the Gaza Strip, as a prelude to new rules under which Israel will not attack Hamas if it stops its rocket fire.
The lull comes a week after a bloody five-day escalation in the Gaza Strip, during which over 120 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes and ground operations, and militants launched 258 rockets and mortars at Israel.