By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Israel and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt on the eighth day of intensive Israeli fire on the Gaza Strip and militant rocket attacks out of the enclave, Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said.
First word of the truce came from a Palestinian official who has knowledge of the negotiations in Cairo, where U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also pursuing peace efforts.
Asked whether a ceasefire deal had been reached, an Egyptian official in Cairo said: "Yes, and Egypt will announce it."
Egyptian state TV had earlier said a news conference would be broadcast from President Mohamed Mursi's palace shortly.
Israeli sources said Israel had agreed to a truce, but would not lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory, which is run by the Islamist Hamas movement.
All the sources declined to be named or to give further details of the arrangements hammered out in Cairo.
More than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed in the fighting that began last Wednesday.
The ceasefire, if confirmed, was forged despite a bus bomb explosion that wounded 15 Israelis in Tel Aviv earlier in the day and despite more Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
After talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Clinton held a second meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Egypt for discussions with Mursi, whose country has led mediation efforts.
In Tel Aviv, targeted by rockets from Gaza that either did not hit the city or were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system, 15 people were wounded when a bus was blown up near the Defence Ministry and military headquarters.
The blast, which police said was caused by a bomb placed on the vehicle, touched off celebratory gunfire from militants in Gaza and had threatened to complicate truce efforts. It was the first serious bombing in Israel's commercial capital since 2006.
In Gaza, Israel struck more than 100 targets, including a cluster of Hamas government buildings, in attacks that medical officials said killed 10 people, among them a 2-year-old boy.
Israel's best-selling Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper had reported an emerging outline of a ceasefire agreement that called for Egypt to announce a 72-hour ceasefire followed by further talks on long-term understandings.
Under the proposed document, which the newspaper said neither party would be required to sign, Israel would hold its fire, end attacks against top militants and promise to examine ways to ease its blockade of Gaza, controlled by Hamas Islamists who do not recognise the Jewish state's right to exist.
Hamas, the report said, would pledge not to strike any Israeli target and ensure other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip also stop their attacks.
Israel has carried out more than 1,500 strikes since the offensive began with the killing of a top Hamas commander and with declared aim of deterring Hamas from launching rocket attacks that have long disrupted life in its southern towns.
Medical officials in Gaza said 146 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, including 36 children, have been killed in Israel's offensive. Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, the military said.
BEFORE YOU GO
23/11/2012 05:31 GMT
Clinton Warned Netanyahu: Don't Punish Palestinians For U.N. Bid
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her talks in Israel this week not to take any extreme actions in response to the Palestinian move in the United Nations for recognition as a non-member state. Clinton said such steps against the Palestinian Authority could bring about its collapse. The Palestinians are planning to ask the United Nations General Assembly to vote on upgrading its status from non-member entity on the symbolic date of November 29.
The day after the cease-fire with Hamas took effect, Israel is preparing for the next crisis with the Palestinians, which is scheduled for six days from now. November 29th is the anniversary of the United Nations vote on accepting the Partition Plan in 1947, which led to the founding of the Jewish Sate. It is also the United Nations' International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Read more here.
23/11/2012 03:50 GMT
Report: U.S. Urges Israel Not To Build In E-1 Areas
From the Jerusalem Post:
Washington is urging Israel not to allow construction in the area known as E-1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim as a possible response to the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition next week at the UN, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Building in E-1, which would create contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast beyond the Green Line, is something various Israeli governments have long wanted to do, but which US opposition has prevented.
Read more here.
23/11/2012 00:01 GMT
Life In Gaza's Courtyards
The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren chronicles displays of pride and sacrifice:
Inside a courtyard, there are faded remnants of “Congratulations from the uncles,” from the April wedding of a son of Ahmed al-Jabari, the commander of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, whose assassination last week was the beginning of the latest round of intense battle between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
On the wall outside, the colorful Arabic script reads “Welcome hajji, Abu Muhammad,” a reference to Mr. Jabari’s return from a pilgrimage to Mecca last month. Nearby, the freshest paint pronounces a message from the troops: “Rest in peace. The mission has been accomplished.”
Read the full story at the New York Times.
22/11/2012 23:19 GMT
PHOTO: Egypt Tunnel Into Gaza
Egypt Tunnel into Gaza:
An underground tunnel connecting through which I got into Gaza from Egypt. Israel has repeatedly targeted the tunnel network, trying to hinder flow of goods and weapons into the strip. (Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy via Flickr)
22/11/2012 22:55 GMT
Soldiers Show Frustration Via Viral Facebook Photo
16 soldiers spelled out 'loser' with their bodies to critique Netanyahu and show frustration at not going into battle.
22/11/2012 22:29 GMT
Who Brokered The Ceasefire
The Economist discusses how the ceasefire was achieved and whether it could lead to lasting peace in the region.
Among others coming and going were the UN secretary-general, the American secretary of state and the foreign ministers of Turkey and Germany. But the real bargaining took place behind closed doors at the headquarters of General Muhammad Shehata, Egypt’s intelligence chief. There, in separate rooms, the Egyptians haggled with a legal adviser to the Israeli prime minister, and with representatives from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs Gaza, and a smaller, more radical Palestinian faction, Islamic Jihad.
22/11/2012 21:22 GMT
Israeli Arab Arrested for Tel Aviv Bus Bombing
From the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's army spokeswoman says an Israeli Arab who is a member of Hamas has been arrested for Wednesday's bus bombing in Tel Aviv.
The bombing injured 27 people near Israel's military headquarters and threatened to scuttle efforts to broker a cease-fire to end fighting between Israel and Gaza.
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich reported Thursday on Twitter that authorities had arrested the man who planted the bomb on the bus and identified him as an Arab Israeli from the village of Taybeh. She said he was a member of Hamas.
22/11/2012 20:41 GMT
Arrest Made In Tel Aviv Bus Bombing
@ haaretzcom :
BREAKING: #Israel security forces arrest suspects in #TelAviv bus blast http://t.co/91fS0v48
22/11/2012 20:38 GMT
A Palestinian Boy
A Palestinian boy and militants of the Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, attend funerals of five Hamas militants in Mugharka village, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. Five Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli air strike yesterday, Palestinian health officials said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
22/11/2012 20:28 GMT
Israel-Gaza Conflict Winners And Losers
While the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Gaza on Wednesday brought an end to the rockets and airstrikes, the political fallout is just beginning. The Associated Press offers a breakdown of who won and who lost as a result of the truce agreement:
Read the full story on HuffPost World.