Ceasefire offer from militants launching barrage of rockets into Israel

A Gaza Strip militant group spearheading a recent campaign of rocket barrages into Israel said yesterday it was prepared to cease fire if the Israeli military did so as well.

The rocket fire has provoked retaliatory Israeli airstrikes and on Saturday nine militants and an Israeli civilian were killed in some of the worst violence in the area in months.

The exchange of fire continued overnight, with Palestinians firing 10 rockets into Israel in the early hours of yesterday, and Israeli aircraft targeting six militant sites in Gaza, the military said. No casualties were reported by either side.

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Egypt had been mediating truce efforts over the weekend, and late yesterday morning, the Islamic Jihad militant group said it was ready to halt its attacks if Israel would halt its air strikes. “When all jet fighters leave the skies of Gaza we will stop firing rockets,” said Dawud Shehab, a senior member of Islamic Jihad.

There was no official comment from Israel. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Israel would step up its retaliatory attacks if necessary, but in the meantime, defence officials said, Israel was holding back in an effort to keep the violence from escalating further.

The latest round of violence was set off by a rocket attack earlier in the week.