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Shaky truce appears to end along Gaza-Israel border

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 4:51 AM EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
A Hamas policeman inspects the remains of a vehicle targeted by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
A Hamas policeman inspects the remains of a vehicle targeted by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Israeli airstrikes target two "terror activity sites," IDF says
  • NEW: Palestinian news agency says Israeli army opened fire at a funeral east of Jabaliya
  • In a nonbinding move, Egypt's parliament votes to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel

Editor's note: Read this story in Arabic.

Gaza City (CNN) -- Israeli aircraft have targeted two "terror activity sites" in northern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said early Wednesday in another round of tit-for-tat that appeared to end a shaky truce.

"Direct hits were confirmed," the IDF said in a statement. The attack was carried out in response to rockets fired at Israel over the past day, the statement said. "The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, and will continue to operate with determination at any given time against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel," the statement said. "The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip."

A man who answered the phone at the IDF "International News Desk" said he could not be more specific about what was hit or about whether anyone was hurt.

There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinians.

Earlier Tuesday, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the Israeli army opened fire at a funeral east of Jabaliya, north of Gaza, wounding three people, according to witnesses. "They said the army opened fire at the funeral procession when it reached the Jabaliya cemetery, which is close to the Gaza borders with Israel," WAFA said.

An IDF spokeswoman said IDF soldiers operating along the security fence in Gaza identified approximately 50 Palestinians gathering near a security fence and, in accordance with the IDF rules of engagement, fired warning shots to disperse the group. Initial reports indicate that there were no injuries to the suspects, said the spokeswoman who, in line with IDF policy, would not identify herself.

The attack came after a truce between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants appeared to have held much of Tuesday, despite reports of rockets being fired into Israel.

"It appears that we have reached the end of this round of violence," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said early Tuesday. The IDF "demonstrated once again that we will take out anyone who tries to act against us."

While there seemed to be consensus that a cease-fire, brokered by Egypt, had been reached, each side appeared to have a different interpretation of what the agreement entailed.

The Palestinian militant group responsible for firing rockets from Gaza into Israel during the previous four days said it had agreed to the cease-fire after Israel had agreed to end its campaign of airstrikes and assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders.

"When Israel agreed to these two conditions with Egyptian assurances and mediation, then Islamic Jihad and all the Palestinian resistance factions agreed on a reciprocal cease-fire in the Gaza strip," said Khaled al-Batsh, the Gaza-based leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which boasted of launching dozens of rockets and mortars into Israel during hostilities between the Israeli military and Gaza militant groups.

Israel denied Tuesday that it had agreed to stop the practice of targeted killings in Gaza, arguing that it remained a legitimate tool to fight terrorism.

"Targeting such mega-terrorists is the best way to save lives," said senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad. On Friday, the Israeli military fired a missile at a vehicle carrying Zuhair al-Qaisy, a leader in the Palestinian militant group known as the Popular Resistance Committees.

Israel, Gaza exchange rocket fire and airstrikes
Israeli airstrikes target Gaza

Military officials say al-Qaisy was targeted because he was planning a terrorist attack on Israel. The strike prompted retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza leading to four days of hostilities between the Israeli military and Gaza-based militant groups.

Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the fighting and hundreds of rockets were fired toward civilian population centers in southern Israel. Fourteen of the Palestinian victims belonged to the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad. At least 80 others were wounded.

The Israeli military said suspected militants fired three rockets and mortars early Tuesday into Israel.

"We must appreciate the public's endurance and cooperation while following the ongoing situation," said IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. "Calm will be reciprocated with calm, and fire will be reciprocated with fire."

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, submitted a letter to the secretary-general Tuesday criticizing the lack of strong U.N. action on the rockets fired from Gaza.

"It is time for the Security Council to speak with one voice against the terrorism that continues to flow from Gaza," he wrote. "The situation is grave. If one rocket lands in the wrong place at the wrong time, Israel will be forced to respond in a completely different manner."

The cease-fire agreement was reached with the help of Egyptian mediators, an Egyptian intelligence official said.

The deal came even as Egypt's parliament, in a symbolic move, voted unanimously to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel and halt the export of gas to its neighbor.

The Islamist dominated parliament voted by a show of hands in support of the motion against the Jewish state.

The vote will not affect the current political relations between the two countries because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is the only authority allowed to make such decisions after the ouster last year of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The fighting was the worst outbreak of violence in Gaza this year and comes as Israel and the world's attention has been focused largely on Iran and Syria.

CNN's Kevin Flower, Talal Abu Rahma, Guy Azriel, Kareem Khadder, Josh Levs and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

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