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Israel and militants 'agree truce'

Egypt has brokered a ceasefire between Palestinian militant factions and Israel after four days of violence, an Egyptian security official has said.

The official said that after hours of talks, the Palestinians agreed to stop launching rockets at southern Israeli cities and Israel agreed to stop targeting militants in air strikes.

The fighting was triggered by Israel's killing of a militant leader last week. Twenty-four Palestinians died, including seven on Monday, and about a million Israelis in rocket range have seen their lives disrupted by the threat of rocket attacks, with frequent sirens warning them to run for cover.

Earlier, Egyptian ceasefire efforts had appeared to stall. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned that Israel would keep striking those trying to harm Israeli civilians and that Israel was "ready to broaden its operation".

The Israeli military said later it had ordered no air strikes against Gaza militants and rocket fire at southern Israel had ebbed - signs that a truce was taking effect. Cabinet minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio the latest outbreak of violence "appears to be behind us".

The military said Israel carried out no air strikes after 1am, when the ceasefire was to take effect. It said two rockets were fired at Israel, causing no injuries.

Gaza militants insisted that Israel stop firing first and that it promise to halt air strikes aimed at killing Gaza militants for good - a guarantee Israel is unlikely to give.

Meanwhile, government officials and missile experts in Israel praised the performance of Iron Dome, an Israeli-made system designed to shoot down short-range rockets like those fired from Gaza.

Iron Dome has been rolled out over the past year, and the current fighting poses its most serious test. Israel has other systems deployed against longer-range missiles. Iron Dome uses cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and intercepts only those that would pose a threat to people and property, ignoring those that are expected to fall in open areas.

The military said that of 143 rockets fired since Friday, it tried to intercept 63 and succeeded in all but nine of those attempts. No Israelis have been killed in the current fighting, and property damage has been relatively minor.

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