... So that You may be kept informed

MID: Nervous peace in Gaza after Israel halts war

18 Jan 2009 5:50 PM

GAZA CITY, Jan 18 AFP - A nervous peace reigned in Gaza early on Sunday amid reports of sporadic gunfire in the coastal strip after Israel unilaterally halted a war on Hamas but said its troops would remain in the battered enclave for the time being.

More than six hours after Israel's ceasefire went into effect at 2am (1100 AEDT) on Sunday, no air raids or major clashes were reported in the Palestinian territory, witnesses and the army said.

Israeli helicopters fired flares into the sky above Gaza City, television images showed and radio said one chopper fired a round of gunfire somewhere over the city, but the report could not be verified.

Witnesses said there was a short exchange of gunfire between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops near the southern town of Rafah, but the army did not confirm the report.

Israeli tanks pulled back some 100 metres (yards) from their positions east of the southern city of Rafah and near the northern town of Jabaliya, witnesses said.

Gaza medics took advantage of the calm to rush into the areas where the heaviest fighting occurred to look for wounded and dead.

"We are searching in Jabaliya, Beit Lahiya, Tal al-Hawa and Zeitun," one rescue official told AFP.

Four bodies were pulled from the rubble in the northern towns of Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya, they said.

The duration of the ceasefire is in doubt after Hamas said it would not accept the presence of a single Israeli soldier in the territory.

Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on Hamas on December 27 in response to consistent rocket fire from the enclave run by the Islamists for a year and a half.

The war killed at least 1,206 Palestinians, more than 400 of them children, and wounded another 5,300, according to Gaza medics.

On the Israeli side, three civilians and 10 soldiers were killed in combat and rocket strikes, according to Israeli medics.

Israel battered the territory with some 2,500 air strikes, as well as tank and artillery fire.

Gaza militants fired more than 700 rockets and mortars into Israel.