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Report: Egypt negotiating Gaza ceasefire

Nov. 11, 2012 8:37 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2012 10:04 A.M.)
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Egypt is making efforts to implement a ceasefire with Gaza factions to end the latest round of cross border violence which has killed six Gazans and injured dozens more since Saturday, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Senior Egyptian sources said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have agreed to a ceasefire as long as Israel halts airstrikes on the coastal enclave, Ynet news reported.

The sources said that on Saturday Hamas asked Egyptian authorities to mediate a cessation to hostilities, the Israeli website said.

Yasser Othman, Egyptian Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, said that Egypt was "making considerable efforts to stop the escalation and establish a lull," Ynet said.

Islamic Jihad, however, said in a statement that it had not agreed to a truce and will "respond to Israeli aggression which targets civilians."

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also denied agreeing to a truce with Israel, calling on factions to respond strongly to Israeli attacks against Palestinians.

Earlier, Israel said it was poised to escalate attacks on the Gaza Strip on Sunday following a surge of rocket and mortar salvos by Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

On Saturday, Israel shelled the Gaza Strip killing four civilians and injuring at least 25. Israel's army said it was responding to a missile attack on an Israeli military jeep which injured four soldiers.

Residents said a crowded mourning tent in the al-Shujaiyeh neighborhood near Gaza City was full of people paying respects to a bereaved family man when a shell struck.

Gaza factions fired dozens of rockets into Israel in response to the deaths, with Israel launching an airstrike early Sunday which killed two members of Islamic Jihad's military wing.

Two workers were wounded later when a plastics factory in northern Gaza Strip caught fire after it was hit by an Israeli tank shell, emergency workers said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that nearly 70 rockets had been fired into Israel since midnight on Saturday, injuring four Israelis.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a centrist in Israel's coalition government, played down speculation that the upcoming election was affecting Gaza policy.

"I don't think the election should be a consideration in how we respond. It is not meant to make us avoid action ... nor is it meant to provoke us into grabbing some kind of opportunity for an operation," Barak told Israel's Army Radio.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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