An Egyptian-brokered truce failed to take hold Sunday to halt violence between Israel and Gaza militants in which nine Palestinian gunmen and an Israeli civilian have been killed.

Three rockets were fired at Israel after the 6 a.m. (4 a.m. British time) starting time for the truce, an Israeli military official said. Two were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile shield and another slammed into the south but caused no casualties or damage.

Islamic Jihad and two smaller factions claimed responsibility for the rocket launchings over the past five days. Islamic Jihad has close ties with Iran and has chafed at the rule of rival Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip.

Such flare-ups usually follow a familiar pattern -- Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes over a period of several days before a gradual pullback from escalation that could lead to an Israeli ground push in Gaza.

An Islamic Jihad source, speaking several hours after the cease-fire announced by Egyptian officials was to have taken effect, said the group welcomed Cairo's mediation efforts.

In another sign that Islamic Jihad might end the rocket attacks soon, Abu Ahmed, the leader of its armed wing said: If the (Israeli) aggression is stopped, we will abide by calm.

Israel and Palestinian militants have used such language in the past in ceasing fire while stopping short of acknowledging any formal truce agreement.

My interpretation is that these guys (Islamic Jihad) are keen to show off their clout, which has been built up recently, Yosef Kupperwasser, director-general of Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry, told Reuters.


The current round of cross-border violence began on Wednesday, when residents of Israeli suburbs in the southern approaches to Tel Aviv were jolted awake at night by sirens usually sounded in towns and villages closer to the Gaza Strip.

The alert was triggered by what Israeli security sources said was an upgraded long-range Grad rocket that struck harmlessly near the Israeli port of Ashdod, leading to an Israeli air strike Saturday that killed five top Islamic Jihad militants in a Gaza training camp.

Four other militants died in subsequent air attacks.

One of some 30 rockets and mortar bombs fired at Israel killed an Israeli man in the city of Ashkelon. Two other people were wounded.

We seek no confrontation with the Palestinians and do not want to inflame the situation, but we will not absorb shelling after shelling without a response, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Saturday, threatening unspecified consequences.

Israel kept schools shut in its southern region Sunday as a precaution against further rocket fire, while hundreds of thousands of civilians within 40 km (25 miles) of Gaza were urged to stay indoors.

Islamic Jihad released images of what it said was the firing by its men of a truck-mounted multiple rocket-launcher, a platform not previously seen in Gaza.

Israel says Gaza arsenals have been boosted by gun-running from Libya since the fall of its ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.

The violence erupted after weeks of a relative lull surrounding a prisoner swap on October 18 in which Israel released 477 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held by Hamas since 2006.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Additional reporting by Dan Williams)