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Wary Israelis and Palestinians listen for truce to hold

Rocket fire from Gaza died down Sunday after a daybreak cease-fire, raising hopes for an end to five months of bloody destruction and a new opening toward peace talks.

The surprise truce was supposed to take effect at 6 a.m., but in the four hours that followed, 11 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and villages and some Palestinian militants threatened to keep up the attacks.

Israel did not retaliate, saying it wanted to give the truce a chance.

"Even though there are still violations of the cease-fire by the Palestinian side, I have instructed our defense officials not to respond, to show restraint, and to give this cease-fire a chance to take full effect," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during a ceremony at a high school in southern Israel.

Rivals Hamas and Fatah, the two main factions in the Palestinian government, also publicly backed the truce and by nightfall, it appeared to take hold. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said that he had contacted the leaders of all Palestinian factions Sunday and that they had reassured him they were committed to the cease-fire.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who has been pressing for a reopening of peace talks with Israel, ordered his security forces to patrol the Gaza border Sunday afternoon to stop rocket attacks.

Battle-hardened Israelis and Palestinians were wary, having seen similar truces and peace efforts disintegrate and slip back into violence.

In the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, Rafik Gaish was bitter because the Israelis tore up his fields. "My potatoes were apparently launching rockets," the farmer scoffed.

Many of the 22,000 residents of the working-class Israeli town of Sderot, targeted by hundreds of rockets from Gaza, were pessimistic. "I was optimistic, but that optimism lasted only a few minutes until another rocket landed," Neta Ammar said.

The violence in Gaza has killed 300 Palestinians, scores of them civilians, and five Israelis. Israel launched the offensive in June after Hamas-linked militants from Gaza captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid. Hamas' leader said Saturday he is still alive.

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