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Gaza truce gets off to a shaky start

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Sat June 23, 2012
Palestinian medics tend to a man wounded during Israeli air strikes in Gaza on June 23, 2012.
Palestinian medics tend to a man wounded during Israeli air strikes in Gaza on June 23, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rockets fired toward Ashkelon, Israeli military says
  • Hamas said the truce started at 8 p.m. local time
  • Palestinians say Israeli artillery fire killed a 4-year-old boy
  • The IDF says the boy died from terrorist "ordnance"

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Egypt mediated a truce between Israel and Gaza militants on Saturday, an effort to keep the lid on a deadly spurt of violence between the foes, the Hamas movement said.

But the truce got off to an inauspicious start, with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saying its Iron Dome system intercepted five rockets fired toward the southern city of Ashkelon. Sirens went off and several loud explosions were heard in the area.

The cease-fire started at 8 p.m. (1 p.m. ET), according to Ayman Taha, a spokesman for Hamas -- the entity that runs the Palestinian territory of Gaza. It came after three Palestinians died in violence on Saturday in Gaza, including a 4-year-old boy and a militant.

Rockets land in Israel after cease-fire announced

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the truce. Earlier Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Banny Gantz, and other senior security and intelligence officers held an "urgent" meeting over the violence.

Israel has been pounding targets in Gaza because of sustained rocket fire into the country from militants in the Palestinian territory. Militants have been firing rockets to retaliate for the airstrikes.

Palestinian medical officials said Israeli artillery fire from a tank at the Israeli-Gaza border killed the 4-year-old boy and badly injured two other civilians. The incident occurred east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich sent out a Twitter message saying the explosion causing the child's death was from an "ordnance belonging to one of the terrorist groups." Reports indicating that a Palestinian child was killed by IDF activity are false, Leibovich said.

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Another drone attack on Gaza City killed a militant on a motorcycle. At least 10 others were wounded in the hit, which also damaged a nearby building. The militant, Osama Mahmmoud Ali, is a member of the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, which lost one of its leaders in a similar strike Friday.

An Israeli drone killed one man when it hit a militant group east of Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, according to medical sources in Gaza. Another drone fired a missile at a car in the Zeitoun neighborhood south of Gaza City, injuring three people.

At least 12 others were injured in three Israeli airstrikes overnight, medical officials said. Also, a tank shell struck a parking lot in downtown Gaza City but did not explode.

More than 15 rockets had been fired into Israel on Saturday morning alone, the IDF said. The IDF also said some rockets have been intercepted by the country's Iron Dome missile system.

The IDF said its airstrikes have targeted sites in response to the week's "continuous rocket fire toward southern Israel. During the past week over 150 rockets hit Israel." The military said one of its strikes targeted a "terrorist squad" in northern Gaza preparing to fire a rocket into Israel.

The IDF said it "will not tolerate any attempt by terrorist groups to target Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers, and will continue to operate against those who use terror against the State of Israel. The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip."

Near the city of Sderot, in Israel, a 50-year-old man was seriously injured when he was hit in the neck with shrapnel from a rocket that exploded at a factory.

Alon Shuster, head of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council in Israel, said citizens would not be forced out by the attacks.

"The residents of this region who have tolerated this situation over the past 12 years will continue to stay here. It is the government's responsibility to ensure our safety, whether by a political or military action and not allow these fictitious truces any longer," he said.

Militant Palestinian group behind Israel attack, Egypt official says

CNN's Guy Azriel and Kareem Khadder in Jerusalem and Talal Abu Rahma in Gaza contributed to this report.

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