New Gaza truce holding after shaky start

New Gaza truce holding after shaky start

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories - Israel and Gaza militants were holding their fire Thursday morning after a new truce got off to a shaky start, with night-time Palestinian rocket fire followed by Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli army said that there had been no fighting for several hours, since Israeli air raids into Gaza finished around 3:00 am (0000 GMT).

Palestinians had fired two rockets into southern Israel two hours earlier, after a five-day ceasefire extension was to have taken effect.

An army spokeswoman said that aircraft hit rocket-launching sites, weapons caches and "centres of terrorist activity" but could not give a precise number.

An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reported four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes after an existing 72-hour truce was extended at midnight for another five days.

More than 1,950 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side have been killed since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive to destroy Hamas rockets and attack tunnels burrowing into the Jewish state.

After days of shuttle diplomacy, the agreement clinched by Egypt ushered in what is potentially the longest period of calm in the five-week conflict and will allow more time for talks on the thorniest issues that separate the two sides, the Palestinians said.

An earlier truce collapsed in a firestorm of violence on August 8.

Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said in Cairo that more time was needed to discuss "some" remaining disputes with Israel over a long-term truce.

5 Palestinians, journalist killed

On Wednesday, five Gazans and an Italian journalist were killed in the northern town of Beit Lahiya in a blast as a Palestinian bomb disposal squad was trying to disarm an unexploded Israeli missile.

The Associated Press confirmed that one of its cameramen and a freelance Palestinian translator were killed, identifying them as Simone Camilli, 35, from Italy, and Ali Shehda Abu Afash, 36.

Besides his work as a translator, Abu Afash also worked part-time as an administrative assistant in AFP's Gaza bureau.

The Gaza interior ministry said its top bomb disposal expert in the north had been killed, naming him as Taysir Lahum.

There had been fears on both sides that hostilities could resume.

Dozens of tanks and armoured personnel carriers approached the border area with Gaza on Wednesday evening.

"We have already sacrificed 64 men and it is possible we may have to sacrifice more," Israel's chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said at a military ceremony, his remarks broadcast on army radio.

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