There is confusion over reports that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has struck a ceasefire deal with the Hamas group and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The Israeli defence minister Shaoul Mofaz was quoted as saying he understood Abbas had won a 30-day ceasefire in return for a future role for the groups in the Palestinian Authority.
But the main militant groups have since denied this account. A spokesman was reported to have said they could, however, accept a period of calm if Israel halts all attacks first.
Hopes of a new peace deal received a boost yesterday with a ceasefire offer from the militant group the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades.
But they set a number of conditions including an end to Israeli operations in Gaza and the targeting of militant leaders.
Abbas’s decision last week to deploy Palestinian security forces along the Gaza border was a crucial step.
It signalled to many Israelis that he was intent on cracking down on militants, even though the action risked provoking conflict with the armed groups.