Iron Dome - AFP - 12.3.12
The Iron Dome defense system at work. Photo by AFP
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Israel and militant factions in the Gaza Strip have agreed to an Egyptian-mediated truce to end four days of cross-border violence, a senior Egyptian security official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The official said both sides "agreed to end the current operations" including an unusual undertaking by Israel to "stop assassinations" in a deal expected to take effect at 1 A.M. local time.

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The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. It was not immediately clear when a formal announcement of a ceasefire would be made.

On Tuesday morning, the IDF said that Israel carried out no airstrikes after 1 A.M. Tuesday, when the cease-fire was to take effect. Three rockets were fired at southern Israel, causing no casualties.

Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio the latest outbreak of violence "appears to be behind us."

Gaza's Hamas leadership, whose own cadres have kept out of the fighting, had confirmed on Sunday that Egypt was working on a deal to stop the violence.

On Monday, the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority said that he expects Israel and Gaza to reach a ceasefire within 48 hours.

"Egypt is determined to reach a ceasefire within 48 hours," said Yasser Othman, adding that a ceasefire would be reached despite current difficulties and the refusal of Israel to stop its activities in the Gaza Strip.

Othman denied claims of a Hamas legislator Yunus al-Astal, that Egypt suggested a ceasefire in exchange for supplying petrol to the Gaza Strip. He added that an Egyptian team was currently in Gaza, in order to solve the petrol supply problem.

Egyptian intelligence officials have been leading efforts to mediate between Israel and Hamas in the last few days, in order to calm the escalation on the Israel-Gaza border.

Egyptian diplomats said on Monday that there is an effort to bring about a ceasefire by Tuesday morning.

"We hope that we will succeed to reach quiet tonight," said one Egyptian diplomat.

Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that Hamas approached Egyptian intelligence and asked to pass a message to Israel regarding the renewal of calm.

"We do not carry out negotiations with Hamas," Ya'alon said.

"Our response through the Egyptians was very simple, this is basically our policy since the beginning of the current administration: if you are quiet, we will be quiet, if you shoot, or plot attacks, we will hit you, and so the ball is certainly in their court."

The Egyptian diplomat who is involved in the efforts to bring about the ceasefire said that Egyptian intelligence has been talking with Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau since Sunday, as well as with different Palestinian factions, with an emphasis on Hamas.

According to him, the attempt to reach an agreement for a ceasefire between Sunday night and Monday failed, after the two sides continued fire.

"We are doing everything to end this round of violence at the earliest opportunity possible," the Egyptian diplomat said.

"We will try again to do this today. We are continuing to work in order to have a quiet night. We want both sides to stop firing, but we still have not received final answers."

Since the start of this round of violence last Friday, 166 rockets exploded in Israeli territory. The Israel Air Force carried out 37 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip: 19 strikes targeted rocket-launchers and 18 targeted weapons warehouses.

Read this article in Hebrew.