Palestinian Militants Deny Gaza Cease-Fire Deal

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The main militant Palestinian groups disputed a claim Saturday that they had reached agreement for a cease-fire.

Palestinian officials had earlier said the groups agreed to halt the firing of rockets into Israel at midnight if Israel made no new raids into the Gaza Strip.

The midnight deadline passed with no new violence.

But the three militant groups — Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Islamic Jihad and the Hamas military wing — denied that a cease-fire had been agreed upon, saying that their rocket attacks were a response to Israeli aggression.

The Israeli military said it was aware of the internal Palestinian cease-fire contacts and would wait to see what happens.

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The Palestinian officials said the agreement was reached in Gaza City following meetings sponsored by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the officials said.

Several Palestinian militant groups attended, including Haniyeh's Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the officials said on condition of anonymously because the unilateral cease-fire agreement was agreement was reached at a closed meeting.

The Israeli offiensive in the Gaza Strip that began June 28, three days after militants raided an Israeli army post, killing two soldiers and capturing another.

More than 100 Palestinians, many of them gunmen, have been killed in attacks by Israeli warplanes, tanks and artillery. Israeli aircraft have destroyed the main power station and attacked key government office buildings.

At the same time, the militants have fired many homemade rockets at southern Israel.

Nabil Shaath, an aide to Abbas, said Abbas and the militant groups met over the past few days and decided that a cease-fire would have to be adopted by the militants and Israeli forces.

"A cease-fire is a cease-fire. It has to be accepted by the two parties, and it has to lead to a resolution of all the outstanding issues" in Gaza, Shaath said in an interview.

No fighting between Israeli ground forces and militants was reported in Gaza on Saturday, but Israel fired shells at open fields in the east, with no casualties reported.

In fighting in Gaza on Friday, four people were killed — a Hamas activist and three relatives — in an explosion at his home in Gaza City, hospital officials said. Israel said it fired a tank shell at the balcony of the house as the activist was preparing to fire an anti-tank missile at its forces.

Also Friday, Israeli forces pulled out of the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza after a two-day sweep.