Palestinian militants ceased rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and relative calm prevailed Saturday afternoon after a night-long exchange of fire that prompted Israeli threats against Iranian forces in Syria, the AP reports. The Islamic Jihad group, a militant faction operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza but that has close ties to Iran and Syria, said they agreed to Egyptian mediation efforts and halted the rocket fire, the heaviest to emanate from Gaza in months. "The Egyptian efforts led to understandings to restore calm to Gaza Strip. We appreciate the Egyptian endeavor and hope for all kinds of (Israeli) aggression to stop," says Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad official. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said that 34 rockets had been fired at Israel throughout the night. In response, Israel hit over 80 targets in Gaza.
Hamas, the larger militant group that controls Gaza, accused Israel of resorting to military escalation "to evade obligations" of a comprehensive cease-fire that Hamas has long sought. Hamas wants the deal to end a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza. There has been no immediate comment from Israel on truce. It has said its fighter jets struck dozens of targets across Gaza and accused Iranian forces in Damascus of orchestrating the barrages. The threats toward Iranian forces in Syria added a new dimension to what was already the heaviest fighting between Israel and Gaza militants in several weeks. Opening a new front in Syria could put Israel in open confrontation with heavily armed Iranian and Hezbollah forces, along with recently deployed Russian anti-aircraft systems. Click for the full story, or read about a US student stuck "in limbo" in Israel.
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