Israel and Palestinian militants declare a truce in Gaza

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced a truce late on Sunday, raising hopes of ending the most serious escalation on the Gaza border in more than a year.

Israeli forces bombed Palestinian targets over the weekend and launched missile attacks on their cities, which had largely subsided by the time the truce went into effect at 23:30 (20:30 GMT).

This was announced in two separate statements by Islamic Jihad and then by Israel, which thanked Egypt for brokering the ceasefire.

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The three-day clashes repeated the precursors to the previous Gaza wars, although they were relatively contained because Hamas, the Islamist group ruling the Gaza Strip, which has more power than the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far survived.

Gaza officials said 44 Palestinians have been killed so far, about half of them civilians, including children. The rockets threatened much of southern Israel, sending residents in cities including Tel Aviv and Ashkelon to bomb shelters.

Israel launched what it called preemptive strikes on Friday against what it expected to be an Islamic Jihad attack aimed at retaliating for the arrest of the group’s leader, Bassam al-Saadi, in the occupied West Bank.

In response, Islamic Jihad launched hundreds of rockets into Israel. At a press conference in Tehran, the group’s leader, Ziad al-Nakhala, said Cairo would “work to secure the release” of al-Saadi. Israeli and Egyptian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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On Sunday, Islamic Jihad expanded its firing range toward Jerusalem in what it described as retaliation for the killing of its commander in southern Gaza by Israel – the second major officer Israel has lost in the fighting.

Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor missiles shot down the missiles west of the city. The military said others failed, causing a number of deaths in Gaza, while Hamas said all Palestinian deaths were caused by Israeli strikes.

Distraught at another wave of bloodshed – after the outbreak of war in 2008-09, 2012, 2014 and last year – Palestinians pluck the rubble of homes to save their property.

“Who wants war? Nobody. But we also don’t like to be silent when women, children and leaders are killed,” said a taxi driver in Gaza who identified himself only as Abu Muhammad. “eye for an eye.”

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Participated in the coverage Ali Sawafta Ramallah. Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo. Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich, John Stonestreet and Diane Kraft

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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