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Gaza factions in 'day-long truce'

Palestinian militants with rockets in Gaza (20 December 2008)
Each side accuses the other of breaking the ceasefire

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas says armed factions in the Gaza Strip are observing a 24-hour halt to rocket fire against Israel.

Hamas said the truce, which came into effect on Sunday night, was declared at the request of Egyptian mediators.

Cairo had brokered a six-month truce between Israel and Hamas - which controls Gaza - that ended on Friday.

On Sunday rockets fired by militants in Gaza hit a house in the Israeli town of Sderot, but caused no injuries.

Israel's military said militants fired some 30 rockets and mortar bombs into Israel on Saturday, while one Palestinian militant was killed in an Israeli air strike.

Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said the latest ceasefire had been agreed between militant factions in Gaza "to give a chance to the Egyptian mediation and to show that the problem was always on the Israeli side", Reuters news agency reported.

"If a new [truce] offer were made, which met our demands, then we would be willing to study it," he was quoted as saying.

The two leading candidates to become Israel's next prime minister have vowed, if elected, to topple Hamas in Gaza.

The threats by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud party leader Binyamin Netanyahu came after PM Ehud Olmert warned against making bold statements.

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