GAZA/JERUSALEM – Israel and Palestinians have agreed to a truce in Gaza, according to Reuters, quoting an Egyptian security source, while the Middle East News Agency (MENA)quoted official sources as saying that Egypt’s efforts to halt escalation between the two sides were drawing close to success.
Egypt had been in intensive contact with all sides to reach durable ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, MENA reported, citing official sources as stressing that Cairo would keep on its tireless efforts to reach the aspired calm between the two sides.
The truce followed a weekend-long Israeli pounding of Palestinian targets, triggering longer-range rocket attacks against its cities.
An Egyptian security source quoted by Reuters said Israel had agreed to the proposal, while a Palestinian official familiar with Egyptian efforts said the ceasefire would go into effect at 20:00 (17:00 GMT) Sunday.
According to Reuters, 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.
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.
The Egyptian security source had earlier said earlier that the proposed truce was to take effect at 21:00 GMT.
Yesterday morning, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire towards 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 reported by Reuters.
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 – after outbreaks of war in 2008-09, 2012, 2014 and last year – 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.
Israel put the onus was on Islamic Jihad to stop shooting. “Quiet will be answered with quiet,” an army spokesman said.
In another potential flashpoint, Jews marking the Tisha Be’av fast visited Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, which affronted Palestinians. Video circulated online showed some Jews trying to pray in defiance of Israeli regulations, as police moved in to stop them and Muslim worshippers shouted in protest.
Israel launched what it called pre-emptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack meant to avenge the arrest of a leader of the group in the occupied West Bank.