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Report: Egypt Brokering Ceasefire Between Israel, Hamas

Ceasefire 'not ready', Hamas official says, despite telling BBC that it would be ready 'within hours' earlier Friday. Is an assault ahead?
By AFP and Arutz Sheva Staff
First Publish: 7/4/2014, 1:52 PM

Israelis find shelter from the rockets in a sewage pipe
Israelis find shelter from the rockets in a sewage pipe
Reuters

Egypt is mediating a potential ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Friday, even as terrorists in the Hamas-enclave of Gaza continued its massive rocket barrage on southern Israel. 

"There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no agreement has been reached yet," a Hamas official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Hamas "told the Egyptian side they do not want an escalation," the official added, but gave no further details.

Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, earlier told AFP: "Hamas is not interested in an escalation or war in Gaza, but at the same time it is not possible for it to remain silent on the continued aggression against Gaza and the West Bank."

Israel has yet to confirm reports of a mediation. 

Hamas has been ignoring the IDF's ultimatum to Hamas, which on Thursday called to stop the rocket fire within 48 hours or face war. Since then, Hamas has fired at least nine rockets and two mortar shells in the past six hours at Israeli civilians. 

Roughly the same time as a five-rocket salvo was launched Friday morning, BBC reported that a Hamas source claimed to them a ceasefire was to be announced "within hours," saying the truce was brokered by Egypt.

A senior IDF source responded to the reports of a looming ceasefire, saying "the ball is in Hamas's court. We told Hamas that quiet will be responded with quiet, and if there won't be quiet they will take a very hard blow," reports Yedioth Aharonoth.

"The message is very clear and was transmitted very clearly. If they'll accept on themselves a unilateral ceasefire and there will be quiet - great," added the source.

With no cease fire in sight, the IDF has been preparing for an assault during the past day, two officials stated Thursday night and Friday. 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the massive rocket escalation on Thursday, saying Israel is preparing for two possibilities: “one – that the fire will stop and then our operations will also stop; and the second, that the fire will continue and then our forces will act forcefully.”

On Friday morning, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz added that an assault on Gaza is "inevitable" - and indicated that Israel would prefer to strike first. 

"Gaza is, indeed, growing an army with artillery," Steinitz stated on IDF Radio's "Good Morning Israel" show. "We should try to choose the timing [of an operation] and not have our enemies choose the timing."