Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip have announced a temporary 24-hour pause in their rocket attacks against Israel, following an appeal from Egypt. A six-month truce between the two sides expired last week, and Hamas had threatened to resume suicide bombings in the Jewish state in the face of what they called continued Israeli aggression.
Israel has strengthened its forces on the borders of Gaza, after calls for a military campaign to crush Hamas once and for all. A surge in rocket fire towards southern Israeli towns like Sderot had stretched the original truce to breaking point.
The Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu saw for himself the damage caused by the Hamas rockets when he visited Sderot. The spiralling violence could boost his chances in February’s elections, with opinion polls putting him ahead of Kadima’s Tzipi Livni and Labour’s Ehud Barack.
All Israel’s political leaders have pledged to topple Hamas if elected. However, one minister has questioned the long-term chances of success of any offensive in Gaza, and said renewing the truce might be a better option.