GAZA (Reuters) – Gaza's dominant Islamist Hamas movement said Wednesday that Palestinian armed groups in Gaza would have agreed to a ceasefire as long as Israel ceased fire after the most intense flare of fighting since a 2014 war.
There were dozens of rocket and mortar shells in Israel throughout Tuesday and overnight and Israeli tank and air raids in Gaza no reports of violence more than two hours after the announcement of a ceasefire by Hamas.
Israeli intelligence minister Israel Katz deviated questions on Wednesday over Israel's approval of a ceasefire, but said it was not interested in escalating to war.
"It all depends on Hamas, and if it continues to attack, I do not know what its destiny will be," Katz told Israel Radio.
Authorities in southern Israel, where rocket warning sirens have frequently sounded since the Palestinian barrages began on Tuesday morning, said schools would open as usual.
The armed wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared responsibility for the bombardment and declared that it was a reaction to Israel's killing of dozens of Palestinians since March 30, most of them in Gaza's border protests.
Israel has long said that it would not tolerate such attacks from Gaza.
"After resisting the (Israeli) aggression, there has been a lot of mediation in the past few hours," said Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas in Gaza, evidently in reference to the Egyptian Efforts to end the fight.
"An agreement was reached to return to the Gaza ceasefire agreements in 201
Late Tuesday, Israeli aircraft hit 55 militant groups in Gaza, including a cross-border tunnel constructed in response to the Palestinian barrages.
Such potential targets are usually abandoned by militants as violence against Israel increases, and there have been no reports of Palestinian casualties.
Israel said that 70 rockets and mortar bombs had been fired from Gaza and three of its soldiers had been injured by shrapnel.
Several projectiles were shot down by Israel's missile defense system Iron Dome, others landed on empty land and farmland. One exploded in a kindergarten, damaged walls, and dumped debris around the playground about an hour before the planned opening.
In recent weeks, violence has increased on the border with the Gaza Strip. During that time, 116 Palestinians were killed in mass demonstrations by Israeli fire. They demanded the Palestinians' right to return to their ancestral lands in Israel.
Amid international condemnation of the use of deadly force in the mass demonstrations that began on March 30, Israel said that many of the dead were militants and that the army was defending attacks on the border fence.
The Palestinians and their supporters said most of the demonstrators were unarmed civilians and Israel exercised excessive force against them.
A Hamas spokesman had defended Tuesday's attacks as a "natural response to Israeli crimes." An Islamic jihad spokesman said, "The blood of our people is not cheap."
More than two million Palestinians are crowded into the Gaza Strip, a narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled back its troops and settlers in 2005, but citing security issues, insists on strict control of Gaza's land and sea borders, which has brought its economy into collapse.
Egypt also limits the movement inside and outside of Gaza on its border.
Letter from Jeffrey Heller; Additional coverage by Jeffrey Heller and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Arrangement by Robert Birsel