Rockets, gunfire hours after Gaza ceasefire begins (Lead)

January 18th, 2009 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownTel Aviv/Gaza, Jan 18 (DPA) Militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched rockets into the Israeli border area, near the town of Sderot only hours after the beginning of a unilateral ceasefire declared by Israel, the Israeli army said Sunday.Five rocket impacts were recorded near the town of Sderot, an Israeli military spokesman said.

Israeli troops also came under fire by a group of Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip, the Israeli army reported. The troops had informed Israeli armoured units and air force which then shot at and hit the Palestinians, said the spokeswoman.

The unilateral ceasefire declared by Israel came into effect at 2 a.m. (00:00 GMT).

Announcing the ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told journalists Saturday that Israel had achieved the aims it set for itself when launching its Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip Dec 27, and was therefore calling a halt to the fighting.

But he said Israeli troops would, for the time being, remain in the Gaza Strip, which they entered Jan 3, and would respond if attacked.

Although Hamas rejected Israel’s ceasefire announcement, and in fact greeted it by launching a rocket salvo at the city of Beersheba, the militant organisation does not appear to have carried out any attacks once it came into effect.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who tried to mediate an end to the Gaza fighting, was expected to host a conference on the crisis Sunday.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, are expected to attend the summit in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Israel launched its Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip three weeks ago, following sustained rocket fire from the salient on southern Israeli towns and villages.

At least 1,203 Palestinians have been killed and over 5,100 injured since Israel began its military campaign. Three Israeli civilians and 10 soldiers have died since the operation began, and over 700 rockets have been fired from Gaza.

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