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Egypt reportedly brokers Hamas-Israel ceasefire, easing blockade of Gaza

Nov. 23, 2008 12:00 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 23, 2008 12:00 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - An agreement has been reached between Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip and Israel, Hamas announced on Sunday.

The agreement centers around a pledge to stop firing on Israeli targets in return for Israel opening crossing points into the besieged Strip, a top Hamas leader said.

Hamas official Ayman Taha announced that he had received a telephone call from Egyptian intelligence on Friday, which delivered a message from Israel asking that operations be scrapped in exchange for opening the crossing points.

There was no comment from Israel regarding the reported agreement.

Israel has maintained a near-total closure of Gaza since 4 November. The Strip's 1.5 million residents are facing widespread food and electricity shortages.

"We met with factions in the Gaza Strip and told them about the request. They agreed in order to ease the influence of the siege," he claimed.

The reported agreement would essentially restore an Egyptian truce that went into effect in June. Israel broke that truce by invading Gaza on 4 November.

"They also said they would adhere with the ceasefire, which has one month to go. Nothing has been decided about extending ceasefire," Taha noted.

Meanwhile, Israel kept Gaza crossings closed for the 19th straight day on Sunday, under the pretext that homemade projectiles landed in the Israeli border towns of Sderot and Ashkelon on Saturday night. No injuries were reported in either case.

Earlier, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak decided to keep the Gaza Strip crossing points closed on Sunday.

Israeli authorities were preparing to reopen the crossing points until Palestinian fighters launched homemade projectiles last night towards Israeli targets, sources claimed.

***Updated 12:25 Bethlehem time
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