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Shaky truce appears to end along Gaza-Israel border

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 14, 2012 -- Updated 1513 GMT (2313 HKT)
A Hamas policeman inspects the remains of a vehicle targeted by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
A Hamas policeman inspects the remains of a vehicle targeted by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.
  • Palestinian police say an Israeli aircraft fired on a farm north of Gaza
  • Israel says airstrikes target two "terror activity sites"
  • Palestinian news agency says Israeli army opened fire at a funeral east of Jabaliya

Editor's note: Read this story in Arabic.

Gaza City (CNN) -- Israeli aircraft targeted two "terror activity sites" in northern Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said early Wednesday, in another round of tit-for-tat that appeared to end a shaky truce.

"Direct hits were confirmed," the Israel forces in a statement. The attack was carried out in response to rockets fired at Israel over the past day, the statement said.

"The IDF will not tolerate any attempt to harm Israeli civilians or IDF soldiers, and will continue to operate with determination at any given time against anyone who uses terror against the State of Israel," the statement said. "The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip."

A man who answered the phone at the IDF international news desk declined to specify what was hit or whether anyone was hurt.

Israel, Gaza exchange rocket fire and airstrikes
Israeli airstrikes target Gaza

Palestinian police said an Israeli F-16 fighter jet fired a pair of rockets on a farm north of Gaza City, starting a blaze that spread to a neighboring residence. No casualties were reported.

Earlier Tuesday, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the Israeli army opened fire at a funeral east of Jabaliya, north of Gaza, wounding three people, according to witnesses.

"They said the army opened fire at the funeral procession when it reached the Jabaliya cemetery, which is close to the Gaza borders with Israel," the news agency said.

IDF said its soldiers operating along the security fence in Gaza identified approximately 50 Palestinians gathering near a security fence and, in accordance with the rules of engagement, fired warning shots to disperse the group.

Initial reports indicate that there were no injuries to the suspects, said the spokeswoman who, in line with IDF policy, would not identify herself.

The attack came after a truce between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants appeared to have held much of Tuesday, despite reports of rockets being fired into Israel.

"It appears that we have reached the end of this round of violence," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said early Tuesday. The IDF "demonstrated once again that we will take out anyone who tries to act against us."

While there seemed to be consensus that a cease-fire, brokered by Egypt, had been reached, each side appeared to have a different interpretation of what the agreement entailed.

The Palestinian militant group responsible for firing rockets from Gaza into Israel during the previous four days said it had agreed to the cease-fire after Israel had agreed to end its campaign of airstrikes and assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders.

"When Israel agreed to these two conditions with Egyptian assurances and mediation, then Islamic Jihad and all the Palestinian resistance factions agreed on a reciprocal cease-fire in the Gaza strip," said Khaled al-Batsh, the Gaza-based leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which boasted of launching dozens of rockets and mortars into Israel during hostilities between the Israeli military and Gaza militant groups.

Israel denied Tuesday that it had agreed to stop the practice of targeted killings in Gaza, arguing that it remained a legitimate tool to fight terrorism.

"Targeting such mega-terrorists is the best way to save lives," said senior Israeli defense official Amos Gilad. On Friday, the Israeli military fired a missile at a vehicle carrying Zuhair al-Qaisy, a leader in the Palestinian militant group known as the Popular Resistance Committees.

Military officials say al-Qaisy was targeted because he was planning a terrorist attack on Israel. The strike prompted retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza leading to four days of hostilities between the Israeli military and Gaza-based militant groups.

Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the fighting and hundreds of rockets were fired toward civilian population centers in southern Israel. Fourteen of the Palestinian victims belonged to the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad. At least 80 others were wounded.

The Israeli military said suspected militants fired three rockets and mortars early Tuesday into Israel.

CNN's Kevin Flower, Talal Abu Rahma, Guy Azriel, Kareem Khadder, Josh Levs and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

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