Israel says hopes Gaza truce holds after violence

Israel indicated on Thursday that it hoped a truce in the Gaza Strip will hold despite a flare-up of violence in and around the besieged Palestinian territory in recent days.

Palestinians wheel the body of a Hamas fighter into the Nasir hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip. Israel indicated on Thursday that it hoped a truce in the Gaza Strip will hold despite a flare-up of violence in and around the besieged Palestinian territory in recent days.(AFP/Said Khatib)

"We hope the truce is not over, but we are going through a very delicate period in which we are prepared to confront any situation," deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai told public radio.

He nevertheless said Israel "will continue to act whenever necessary."

The six-month Egyptian-mediated truce is due to come to an end on December 19.

Israeli security sources said that over the past week Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, has been trying to create a new situation by breaking an unwritten agreement that the Palestinians do not approach the border fence, according to the radio station.

On Wednesday, four Gaza gunmen identified as Hamas members were killed in an exchange of fire Israel said started after militants tried to place an explosive device near the border fence.

Gaza militants fired several mortar rounds at southern Israel, while the air force conducted two air strikes over the tiny coastal strip.

A previous flare-up last week left seven Palestinians dead and prompted Israel to completely shut down borders crossing points, depriving Gaza of fuel, food and other basic supplies.

The government eventually allowed a limited quantity of fuel through for the territory's sole power plant and was to allow humanitarian agencies to send in 30 truckloads of essential supplies on Thursday.

The United Nations had warned it would have to suspend its food distribution to 750,000 people -- half the impoverished territory's population -- unless the supplies are allowed through.

Israel imposed an embargo after Hamas seized power in Gaza in June last year. It generally allows limited quantities of UN and European Union-funded humanitarian deliveries but regularly responds to rocket and mortar attacks by sealing off the border.

Source: AFP

Other news