Tense calm prevails in Israel, Gaza

Nov. 22, 2012 at 7:06 AM
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JERUSALEM, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- A tense calm prevailed in southern Israel less than 24 hours after the Egyptian brokered cease-fire.

Two warning sirens alerted residents to rocket fire Thursday morning, but it was unclear whether it was a false alarm or rockets fell in Palestinian controlled areas, Israel Radio said. A number of rockets were fired after the truce was announced Wednesday night, but quiet had returned to southern Israel area by 11 p.m.

Amid celebratory gunfire in Gaza, an Islamic Jihad spokesman said the organization will continue to arm itself with weapons while Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud a-Zahar and others emerged from underground hiding places where they had remained during the past week, Israel Radio said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faced fierce criticism from political officials and residents of the South Thursday for agreeing to a truce with Hamas. Residents said they fear it is only a matter of time before they will again be confronted with barrages of rockets from Gaza.

Ashdod Mayor Yehiel -- whose city was hit by rockets -- told Ynetnews.com he was concerned "this lull will last only for a short while. This wasn't the conclusion we prayed for."

Sderot Mayor David Buskila echoed similar sentiments.

Yair Lapid, head of the newly established political party Yesh Atid, accused Netanyahu of failing to live up to his promises.

"After it was promised that Hamas would be eliminated, and that we would not negotiate with it, the state of Israel negotiated with Hamas and failed to eliminate it," he told Ynetnews.com.

"The operation's goals haven't been met. It's only a matter of time before the next round occurs. This is not how you end a battle against terrorism," opposition leader Knesset member Shaul Mofaz told Ynetnews.com.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported more than 1,000 buildings and residential homes and apartments in the South were damaged by rocket fire during the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense. Damages are estimated at about 100 million shekels ($25.57 million). Netanyahu ordered the establishment of a special committee to aid residents in the South whose property was damaged by the rocket fire.

Addressing the Nation Wednesday night, Netanyahu said the operation had achieved all its goals and dealt a painful blow to Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza. Netanyahu failed to reveal details of the Egyptian-brokered agreement.

Reports out of Egypt said Israel and Hamas agreed to a cessation of all hostilities and Israel agreed to refrain from targeting terrorist leaders. Israel agreed to lift restrictions on border crossings into Gaza and facilitate the entry of goods and merchandise and the passage of people, the reports said. Other issues will be discussed between the sides at a later date.

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