Hamas Has Requested a Cease Fire, Israel Officials Say

A security source says Israel is ready to escalate air strikes on Gaza if the barrage of rocket fire continues, although they are willing to wait and see if a Hamas ceasefire holds; six rockets fired from Gaza land in south on Saturday evening.

The political arm of Hamas passed Israel a message on Saturday afternoon requesting a ceasefire, Israeli security sources said.

According to the sources, Israel is willing to agree to the request and will wait to reevaluate its position after seeing if there is indeed a halt in rocket and mortar fire into southern Israel.

IDF soldier near Gaza - Reuters - April 8, 2011

Dozens of rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel on Saturday, as the IDF launched several strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least four Hamas operatives, one of them a senior commander.

Violence has flared since Hamas claimed responsibility for firing a rocket at an Israeli school bus on Thursday, critically wounding a teenager and moderately wounding the bus driver. Hamas has said it was responding to previous lethal Israeli assaults on its members.

The Israeli security sources said that Thursday's air strike on Gaza was massive, and Israel is prepared to intensify its reaction to fire from Gaza should it continue.

Six rockets were fired from Gaza on Saturday evening, one of which was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. One of the rockets landed in the middle of a community near the beach in Ashkelon and the four others landed in open areas.

Over the course of the weekend, the newly deployed Iron Dome missile defense system has succeeded in intercepting eight Grad rockets, two of which were fired towards Be'er Sheva.

The barrage of rockets forced residents of the south to spend Friday night in special areas protected from fire.

The number of Palestinians killed in retaliatory air strikes on Gaza since Thursday is 17. Included in that number is a senior member of Hamas' military wing, who was killed when an Israeli missile hit the car he was driving in.

The senior Hamas militant who was killed, Tayser Abu Snima, has been involved in carrying out attacks on Israel Defense Forces and citizens near the border with Israel, and IDF spokesman said.