Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement on Sunday officially agreed to a new 72-hour cease-fire proposed by Egypt, which entered into effect at midnight local time.

Israeli government sources said, in a terse communique, that "Israel responded positively to the Egyptian request for a cease-fire of 72 hours."

The sources complained that the most recent three-day cease-fire, also proposed by Cairo and agreed to by the warring parties last week, was violated by Hamas before it was due to expire.

Meanwhile, the Islamist movement fighting Israel from the Gaza Strip said that it accepted the new cessation of hostilities despite the fact that leaders of the group had denied those reports earlier in the day.

Hamas' official Al-Ray news agency reported that "a cease-fire of 72 hours has been agreed to and will go into effect starting at midnight."

Al-Ray said that the Palestinian delegation in Cairo accepted the Egyptian proposal and that Israel had decided to send its own delegation to the Egyptian capital with the aim of continuing indirect negotiations with the Palestinian factions.

Meanwhile, prior to the entry into effect of the cease-fire, Palestinian militants fired several salvos of rockets into Israel, mainly into towns near the border with Gaza, but also at the city of Ashkelon, some 13 km (8 mi.) from Gaza, and Beersheba, 42 km (26 mi.) from the coastal Strip, but Israeli television reported no casualties from those attacks.

Israel, in turn, attacked at least 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, killing three Palestinians, two of whom were minors, and wounding 20, local medical authorities said. EFE