The Israeli military said rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries on Friday, a day after Hamas said it had accepted an Egyptian-brokered 18-month truce with the Jewish state, which Egypt would announce in 48 hours, a senior Hamas official said.
Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzuk said after meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that Hamas had accepted the truce in return for the lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
"We have agreed to the truce with the Israeli side for one year and a half (in return) for the opening of all six passages between the Gaza Strip and Israel," MENA quoted him as saying.
Egypt will announce the agreement after contacting Israel and Palestinian factions, he said.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told AFP in Jerusalem that he did not wish to comment.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said there was no agreement on releasing an Israeli soldier captured in 2006 as part of an Egyptian-brokered truce.
"Until now there is no agreement concerning (Gilad) Shalit. Israel is trying to mix up the files and link his fate to the opening of the crossings (into Gaza)," Meshaal told Libyan television late Thursday.
"We reject this and we have informed the Egyptian authorities," he said.
On Thursday Meshaal's deputy, Abu Marzuk said difficulties that had prevented an agreement have been resolved, especially the issue of Shalit.
Israel had insisted that Hamas release Shalit, captured by Palestinian forces more than two years ago, as a condition for ending its blockade of Gaza, which it imposed after Hamas seized the enclave in June 2007.
Marzuk said that Shalit has been removed from the Gaza truce deal and that he will be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
Osama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, told AFP that that "we have surpassed the Shalit issue," adding that Hamas did not want to hold Shalit indefinitely but wanted to exchange him for Palestinian prisoners.
"There are ongoing efforts for the Shalit issue but they are separate from the truce," he said.
Hamas officials have said that Israel offered to open its crossings into Gaza to allow between 70 and 80 percent of goods into the coastal enclave, barring those it says could be used to make weapons.
Marzuk said there would be measures "next March that would make it easier for our Palestinian people to move through the crossing". He did not elaborate.
Mohammed Nasr, a senior Hamas official based in Damascus and a member of the delegation, told AFP that the delegation would seek guarantees that Israel would not reimpose the blockade after a truce.
Hamdan said after the meeting with Suleiman, who has been mediating between Israel and Hamas as the two sides refuse to talk to each other, that Egypt had offered "reasonable guarantees."
"The truce will open the crossings with guarantees of the passage of needed goods into Gaza," he told AFP over the phone from Beirut.
Ending the blockade has been a key Hamas demand and the reason it says it launched rockets and mortar rounds into Israel after a six-month truce expired in December 2008.
Israel launched a 22-day ground, air and sea assault on the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,330 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
Israel and Hamas declared ceasefires to the fighting on Jan. 18, but the fragile calm has been tested by Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket attacks.
Meanwhile Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration understands Israeli settlement activity has to end in order to broker peace with the Palestinians.
Abul Gheit, the first Arab foreign minister to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also said Clinton would attend an upcoming international conference in Egypt to help rebuild Gaza.
During the fighting, Egypt had proposed a three-point truce plan beginning with an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, followed by meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials to secure a long-term ceasefire.
Egypt also proposed the resumption of Palestinian unity talks, which foundered in November after Hamas boycotted a meeting in Cairo, saying its Fatah rivals continued to arrest its members in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
A deal would also help restore Cairo's regional image. Egypt has been criticized in the Arab world for not opening its Rafah border crossing with Gaza for normal traffic and for its limited humanitarian operation during the assault.
Palestinian officials said that a senior Fatah delegation will meet with Hamas officials in Cairo on Thursday night to prepare for the resumption of reconciliation talks, to which Egypt has invited factions on Feb. 22.
Senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath said that Ahmed Qurei, a former prime minister and a lead negotiator, will attend the talks.
Hamas and Fatah met earlier this week in Cairo and agreed to form committees on issues that divide the two rivals.
UN team to visit Gaza
Meanwhile a United Nations spokesperson said the U.N. team tasked with probing recent Israeli attacks on U.N. facilities in the Gaza Strip is soon to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The team, headed by U.N. former envoy to Nepal Ian Martin, began its work in New York Thursday and "is expected to travel soon to the region," before submitting a report on its findings to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, spokeswoman Michele Montas said Thursday.
"The (five-member) board of enquiry will review and investigate a number of specific incidents that occurred in the Gaza Strip" during the 22-day Israel military onslaught on the impoverished Palestinian enclave, particularly strikes on U.N. facilities, Montas said.
"The Secretary General expects that the board will enjoy the full cooperation of all parties concerned," she added, stressing that Ban would review the team's findings and "decide, at that point, what further steps to take."