HomeMiddle EastGaza ceasefire in sight after five days of deadly fighting

Gaza ceasefire in sight after five days of deadly fighting

A ceasefire was finally in sight in and around the Gaza Strip on Saturday after five days of cross-border exchanges that have killed at least 33 Palestinians in Gaza and two people in Israel.

The truce was to take effect at 1900 GMT on Saturday, Egyptian and Palestinian sources said.

AFP correspondents witnessed further rocket fire from Gaza just 45 minutes before the truce began.

Egypt, a longtime mediator in Gaza, has secured the agreement of Israel and the Palestinians to its latest proposal, an Egyptian security official said.

A Palestinian source confirmed their agreement. An Israeli government official declined to comment.

On Saturday, Israel attacked Gaza again with airstrikes against the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad after a fresh barrage of rockets into Israel to mark the funeral of its military commander Iyad al-Hassani, who was killed on Friday.

– What have we done? –

For days, life in Gaza and in Israeli communities near the border has been a daily grind of airstrikes and sirens warning of rocket fire.

Residents of the overcrowded Gaza Strip cowered in their homes as fighting continued, with streets empty and only a few shops and pharmacies open.

“The entire Palestinian people are suffering,” Muhammad Muhanna, 58, told AFP from the ruins of his home. “What have we done?”

In Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, a dead donkey lay among the ruins of a row of buildings flattened by an Israeli attack.

“No one is safe in their houses,” said Imad Rayan, 64.

There have been increasing calls for a ceasefire to be agreed, including from Israel’s closest ally, the United States.

US Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a call to Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, “emphasized the urgency of reaching a ceasefire agreement to prevent further loss of civilian life,” the Department said. of State.

Egypt had maintained its mediation effort despite repeated setbacks.

On Saturday, shrapnel from a rocket fired from Gaza struck a building in the Sdot Negev, just across the border from Israel, killing one man and wounding another. Both were day laborers from Gaza.

Islamic Jihad said its fighters were carrying out “missile attacks on Israeli cities” in revenge for Israeli “murders” of their commanders and attacks on populated areas.

The exchange of fire came after the Palestinian Health Ministry reported the deaths of two men, ages 19 and 32, in an Israeli army raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

The Israeli army said it was a “counter-terrorism” operation targeting officers who had been planning attacks on soldiers.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement said the two men killed in the attack were members of its armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh “demanded UN intervention to stop Israeli crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,” his office said.

– The deadliest fighting since August –

The current outbreak of violence erupted on Tuesday when Israeli strikes in Gaza killed three leading members of Islamic Jihad. Three other senior figures in the Palestinian militant group were killed in subsequent attacks.

They are among at least 33 lives lost in fighting inside Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry.

There have been two deaths in Israel, one of them a day laborer from Gaza.

The army said about 1,100 rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel in the ongoing fighting, including 300 intercepted by its air defenses.

Gaza, a coastal enclave home to 2.3 million Palestinians, has been plagued by poverty and unemployment since Israel imposed a blockade in 2007 when the Islamist Hamas movement took control.

The territory has seen numerous wars between militant groups and Israel since Hamas took power.

The clashes this week were the worst in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since an outbreak in August that killed nearly 50 Palestinians.

The conflict has escalated since veteran Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power late last year, heading a coalition with far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.

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