Deadly violence ends as Palestinians agree to truce with Israel

Palestinians gathering yesterday near an apartment block that was hit in an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. The Gaza health ministry said in a statement that the bodies of two more people were found yesterday morning under rubble.
Palestinians gathering yesterday near an apartment block that was hit in an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. The Gaza health ministry said in a statement that the bodies of two more people were found yesterday morning under rubble.PHOTO: REUTERS

No rocket fire or Israeli strikes after ceasefire starts and curbs on civilian movements lifted

GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) • Palestinian leaders in Gaza agreed to a ceasefire with Israel yesterday to end a deadly escalation in violence over the weekend that threatened to widen into the fourth war between them since 2008.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes in the hours after it took effect.

Israel also lifted restrictions on civilian movements in communities around the Gaza border yesterday morning.

Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4.30am local time, an official from the strip's Islamist rulers Hamas and another from its allied group Islamic Jihad said on condition of anonymity.

An Egyptian official confirmed the deal. It came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.

The latest round of fighting erupted three days ago, peaking on Sunday when rockets and missiles from Gaza killed four civilians in Israel, and Israeli strikes killed at least 25 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians.

The Gaza health ministry said in a statement that the bodies of two more people were found yesterday morning under rubble where an Israeli strike had occurred.

The flare-up came as Hamas sought further steps from Israel towards easing its blockade under a previous ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.

The latest round of fighting erupted three days ago, peaking on Sunday when rockets and missiles from Gaza killed four civilians in Israel, and Israeli strikes killed at least 25 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians.

Israel at the same time faced pressure to restore calm and put an end to the rockets hitting communities in the country's south.

It commemorates its memorial and independence days later this week and is due to host the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv from May 14 to May 18.

On the Gazan side, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began yesterday.

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.

Israeli opposition politicians - and at least one from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's own party - criticised the agreement.

Former military chief Benny Gantz, who challenged Mr Netanyahu in Israel's April 9 general election, called it "another capitulation to blackmail by Hamas and terrorist organisations".

One official in Mr Netanyahu's government suggested that Israel's arch-enemy Iran - a major funder of Islamic Jihad - had been behind the Gaza escalation.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

The Palestinian dead included a commander for Hamas' armed wing whom Israel said it targeted due to his role in transferring money from Iran to militant groups in Gaza.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Deadly violence ends as Palestinians agree to truce with Israel'. Print Edition | Subscribe