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Some Israelis staged protests against the deal, notably in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, where three civilians were killed by a rocket from Gaza last week, army radio said.
Interviewed on Israel’s Army Radio, Barak dismissed a ceasefire text published by Hamas as “a piece of paper which I don’t remember anyone going around with - there’s no signature on it”.
He appeared to confirm, however, a key Hamas claim that the Israelis would no longer enforce a no-go zone on the Gaza side of the frontier that the army says has prevented Hamas raids:
“If there are no attacks along the border … then I tell you that there is no problem with them working the farmland on the perimeter up to the fence,” Barak said.
But should the Palestinians exploit such measures to breach the truce, Israel would be “free to act,” he said, adding: “The right to self-defence trumps any piece of paper.”
Egypt, an important U.S. ally now under Islamist leadership, took centre stage in diplomacy to halt the bloodshed. Cairo has walked a fine line between sympathies for Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that produced President Mohamed Mursi and much of his government, and preserving its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and its ties with Washington, its main aid donor.
Announcing the agreement in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said mediation had “resulted in understandings to cease fire, restore calm and halt the bloodshed”.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, standing beside Amr, thanked Mursi for peace efforts that showed “responsibility, leadership” in the region.
Gaza erupted in a Middle East already shaken by last year’s Arab revolts that toppled several veteran U.S.-backed leaders, including Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and by a civil war in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is fighting for survival.
Israel, the United States and the European Union all classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation over its refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.
But its stance is popular with many Palestinians and has kept the movement competitive with the secular Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, who remains in the occupied West Bank after losing Gaza to Hamas in a civil war five years ago.
The ceasefire was forged despite a bus-bomb explosion that wounded 15 Israelis in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Israeli air strikes that killed 10 people in Gaza. It was the first serious bombing in Israel’s commercial capital since 2006. There was no claim of responsibility, though Hamas praised the attack.
Israeli forces detained 55 suspected militants in the West Bank on Thursday, the military said, citing a need to prevent “the infiltration of terrorists into Israeli communities”.