Israel, Palestinian militants agree truce from Sunday evening
Israel and Palestinian militants have agreed to a truce in Gaza from Sunday evening as mediated by Cairo, sources said, after a weekend-long pounding of Palestinian targets by Israel triggered longer-range rocket attacks against its cities.
An Egyptian security source said Israel had agreed to the proposal, while a Palestinian official familiar with Egyptian efforts said the ceasefire would go into effect at 8pm local time.
Spokespeople for Israel and Islamic Jihad, the faction it has been fighting in Gaza since clashes erupted on Friday, did not confirm this, saying only that they were in contact with Cairo.
The flare-up, recalling preludes to previous Gaza wars, has worried world powers. However, it has been relatively contained as Hamas, the governing Islamist group in the Gaza Strip and a more powerful force than Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far stayed out.
Gaza officials said 31 Palestinians, at least a third of them civilians, had so far been killed. The rockets have paralysed much of southern Israel and sent residents in cities including Tel Aviv and Ashkelon to shelters.
On Sunday morning, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire toward Jerusalem in what it described as retaliation for the overnight killing of its southern Gaza commander by Israel — the second such senior officer it has lost in the fighting.
“The blood of the martyrs will not be wasted,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement.
The salvo came as religious Jews were fasting in an annual commemoration of two Jerusalem temples destroyed in antiquity. Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor, whose success rate the army put at 97 per cent, shot down the rockets just west of the city.
Palestinians dazed by another surge of bloodshed picked through the ruins of houses to salvage furniture or documents.
“Who wants a war? No one. But we also don’t like to keep silent when women, children and leaders are killed,” said a Gaza taxi driver who identified himself only as Abu Mohammad.