Iron Dome - March 12 - AP
A rocket is launched from the Iron Dome system to intercept rockets fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in the city of Ashdod, March 12, 2012. Photo by AP
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Nearly 200 rockets have exploded in Israeli territory since the latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza broke out on Friday.

Responding to rocket fire, the Israel Air Force carried out 37 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, 19 strikes targeted rocket-launchers and 18 targeted weapons warehouses in response to rocket attacks.

26 Palestinians were killed as a result of IAF strikes on Gaza. Out of these 22 were militants and 4 were civilians who were in the area of IAF strikes, but were not involved in the rocket fire.

Overnight Monday, Israel and militant factions in the Gaza Strip reportedly agreed to an Egyptian-mediated truce to end four days of cross-border violence, but on Tuesday morning, five mortar shells were fired toward southern Israel. They exploded in open areas and there were no reported casualties.

Speaking on Tuesday morning at a Kfir Brigade recruitment ceremony, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that the civilian deaths were the result of Gaza militants operating in civilian areas. 

"This is because the enemy operates in civilian areas," he said, adding that the IDF does not use force without cause, and that, depending on developments, "we will know when to use force when it is needed."

"We are following developments in the South, and we will see in the coming hours whether the terrorist organizations stop the fire, and then the IDF will stop its activities accordingly," Gantz said. 

"It's not over till it's over. Quiet will be met with quiet, and fire will be met with fire," he said.

The chief of staff said there is still a danger that a terror cell can carry out a "strategic" attack against Israel, adding that, "all of Israel is under a potential threat."

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The chief of staff praised the Israeli public and the Home Front for "behaving in a mature and responsible way" in the face of "dozens of rockets.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that the end of the latest round of violence is nearing, but added, "We do not know when action will be needed again, the IDF will continue to hit terrorist organizations."

"200 rockets were fired toward Israel in this round and Iron Dome has proven itself," he added.

Speaking of the decision to assassinate Zuhir al-Qaisi, the Popular Resistance Committee leader, on Friday, Barak said this "was a correct decision and the result is good and we will continue to prepare for any eventuality."

An additional Iron Dome system will be deployed "within next two or three weeks," he said.

Meanwhile, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said on Tuesday that "this is not the last round" of fighting. "Whoever tries to hit us, we will hit them back."

"It is engraved in the mind of the enemy that they should not mess with us, and so Hamas did not participate in the latest round of violence," he added.

Israel and militant factions in the Gaza Strip 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.

Despite the cease-fire agreement, however, Three rockets were fired at southern Israel, causing no casualties.

Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis immediately confirmed the ceasefire, but according to DPA, on Tuesday morning the Islamic Jihad confirmed the Egyptian report.

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.

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