Hamas, factions agree to observe shaky ceasefire

Palestinian factions have agreed to halt rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and to renew their commitment to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel in exchange for opening crossing points into the strip, a Hamas spokesman said on Sunday.

Ayman Taha, the spokesman, said the agreement was reached Sunday morning and the factions would wait to see when Israel will reopen the commercial crossings into Gaza, dpa reported.

The meeting was held after Egypt, which sponsors the ceasefire, conveyed an Israeli message to Hamas that the Jewish state will call off recent restrictions if the armed Palestinian groups halted rocket attacks against Israeli border towns.

"We have met the factions in Gaza and briefed them about this letter," Taha said. "The factions were interested in easing the siege and committed themselves again to the lull which expires next month and there were no talks on extending the agreement after that."

The ceasefire was rocked by a series of Israeli army operations in the Gaza Strip beginning on November 4, followed by aresumption of rocket attacks by the armed group.

Since then, Israel has been closing crossing points into Gaza and withholding fuel supplies, forcing the only power station in the Strip to shut down.

The six-month ceasefire deal, took effect on June 19, calls on Israel to open the crossing points into Gaza and stipulates that the armed groups must halt cross-border attacks.

Last year, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip after routing security forces loyal to president Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. Since then, Israel started imposing restrictions on the Hamas-ruled territory.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli media had reported that Israel would keep its borders to the Gaza Strip closed after new rocket attacks by Palestinian militants late Saturday.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak made the decision to keep all border crossings into Gaza closed, following the latest launches of three home-made Kassam rockets by militants toward two towns in southern Israel. There were no casualties.

An Israeli attack by a ground-fired missile in retaliation wounded two Palestinians militants who were allegedly trying to fire additional rockets, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

Israel has come under international criticism for keeping the Gaza crossings closed since November 5, allowing only a few shipments of humanitarian goods to enter the Palestinian enclave.

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