Tensions Ease as Egypt Persuades PRC, Islamic Jihad to Honor Gaza Cease-fire

The Popular Resistance Committees yesterday agreed to stop firing missiles and rockets at Israel, although PRC spokesman Abu Mujahid said long-term cease-fire would be impossible with the "Zionist enemy."

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The cease-fire that was declared between Hamas and Israel on Sunday was observed yesterday, except for three rockets fired in the morning and evening that fell in open areas.

The Popular Resistance Committees yesterday agreed to stop firing missiles and rockets at Israel, although PRC spokesman Abu Mujahid said a "tahadiya" (long-term interim cease-fire ) would be impossible with the "Zionist enemy." The PRC had declared on Sunday that it was refusing to accept a cease-fire.

Ashdod beach yesterday. Bathers were out in force after a weekend of tensions in the south forced them to remain close to their bomb shelters and protected spaces.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The Islamic Jihad, meanwhile, also announced that it would uphold the decision to stop firing.

The change in stance is apparently the result of heavy pressure being brought to bear by Egyptian intelligence officials on the two groups' representatives.

Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi met yesterday in Cairo with Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ramadan Salah and his deputy, Ziad Nahla, who told him they would observe the cease-fire. The Egyptians also conducted intensive meetings with PRC representatives.

The defense establishment believes that the three rockets fired yesterday were launched by small terror groups looking to challenge Hamas and demonstrate their independence, but that over the coming weeks calm will prevail. The IDF did not launch any attacks on the Gaza Strip yesterday, although the units positioned around the Strip were kept on high alert.

Egyptian sources told Haaretz that Cairo had not yet started an investigation into Thursday's terror attack, which originated in its territory. But IDF Planning Branch head Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel agreed with senior Egyptian military officials to set up a joint committee that would investigate the deaths of five Egyptian soldiers during the attack, which took place on the border with Sinai, just north of Eilat.

Egypt blames the IDF for the soldiers' deaths and is demanding an Israeli apology. The IDF insists that its soldiers had returned fire "at the source of the gunfire" that had been aimed at Israeli soldiers and civilians from the area of an Egyptian position on the border. Moreover, the IDF believes that at least some of the Egyptian soldiers were killed by the PRC terrorists' gunfire and bombs.

As head of the planning branch, Eshel is also responsible for the IDF's external relations unit, which maintains contacts with foreign militaries.

Over the past few months, he has been involved in coordinating the deployment of Egyptian troops in the eastern Sinai. The deployment is part of the Egyptian effort to combat terror groups that had seized control of large areas of the peninsula near the Israeli and Gaza borders.