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Palestinian militant group in Gaza says it has agreed to a ceasefire with Israel

There was no immediate word from Israel.

Israeli soldier march 13 2014Enlarge
An Israeli soldier checks his machine gun mounted on an army vehicle stationed on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip on March 13, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE — Egypt brokered a ceasefire on Thursday aimed at ending a flare-up of rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns and Israeli air strikes in the Palestinian enclave, the Islamic Jihad militant group said.

There was no immediate word from Israel, but a senior Defense Ministry official said earlier in the day he expected the fighting to die down soon.

"Following intensive Egyptian contacts and efforts, the agreement for calm has been restored in accordance with understandings reached in 2012 in Cairo," Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader, wrote on Facebook, referring to a truce that ended an eight-day Gaza war two years ago.

Batsh said Islamic Jihad, which began launching rockets into Israel on Wednesday after Israeli soldiers killed three of its fighters a day earlier, would hold its fire as long as Israel did the same.

Minutes before Batsh posted word of the truce on Facebook, Israeli aircraft struck targets in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, wounding three Palestinians, witnesses said. The Israeli military said "seven terror sites" had been hit.

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Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets at Israeli cities on Thursday in the second day of a cross-border flare-up that has drawn Israeli warnings of a tough military response.

A Palestinian official said Egypt, which has brokered previous ceasefires between Israel and militants in Gaza — ruled by the Islamist Hamas group, was trying to restore calm.

Sirens sounded in the southern Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod. Police said the rockets had landed in open areas, causing no casualties.

The Israeli military carried out 29 air strikes and fired tank shells at militant targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the Islamic Jihad group launched 60 rockets towards Israel in the heaviest such barrage in nearly two years.

No casualties were reported on either side of the frontier in Wednesday's incidents. Islamic Jihad said its rocket fire had been a response to Israel's killing of three of its members a day earlier.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel would "hit back with increasing force" against anyone who tried to ruin celebrations over the next few days of the Jewish holiday of Purim.

A Palestinian official said Egypt, which made peace with Israel in 1979 and controls the Rafah border crossing that is Gaza's transit point to the outside world, had stepped in.

"Egyptian officials have made contacts with both sides to restore calm," said the official, with direct knowledge of the talks.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Louise Ireland)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140313/gaza-militants-fire-rockets-at-israeli