Palestinian leaders in Gaza yesterday agreed to a ceasefire with Israel to end a deadly two-day escalation in violence that threatened to widen into war, officials with knowledge of the deal said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes after it was due to take effect, a correspondent in Gaza said.
Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4:30am, an official from the strip’s rulers Hamas and another from its allied group Islamic Jihad said on condition of anonymity.
An Egyptian official also confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity.
The deal came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
The escalation began on Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza, drawing waves of Israeli retaliatory strikes, and continued throughout Sunday.
At least 23 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed.
Four civilians in Israel were killed, at least three of them Israeli citizens.
The flare-up came as Hamas sought further steps from Israel toward easing its blockade under a previous ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the UN.
Palestinian officials in Gaza accused Israel of not taking steps to ease its blockade as promised under previous ceasefire deals.
The Islamic Jihad official said the new truce agreement was again based on Israel easing its blockade.
Among the steps, he said, were the relaxing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
The Palestinian dead included a commander for Hamas’ armed wing, who Israel said it targeted due to his role in transferring money from Iran to militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that he instructed the military “to continue its massive strikes on terror elements in the Gaza Strip.”
Israel said its strikes were in response to Hamas and Islamic Jihad firing 690 rockets or mortars across the border since Saturday, with Israeli air defenses intercepting more than 240 of them.
In addition to those killed and injured, the rockets repeatedly set off air raid alarms in southern Israel and sent residents running to shelters while also damaging houses.
At least 35 of the rockets fell in urban areas, according to the army.
The army said its tanks and planes hit 350 militant targets in Gaza in response.
It targeted militant sites and in some cases militants themselves as well as their homes if they were found to be storing weapons, military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
Several buildings in Gaza City were destroyed.
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