GAZA CITY: Palestinian leaders in Gaza announced a ceasefire with Israel on Monday to end a deadly two-day escalation in violence that threatened to widen into a fourth war between them since 2008.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes in the hours after it was due to take effect, a correspondent in Gaza said.
Israel also lifted restrictions on civilian movements in communities around the Gaza border on Monday morning.
Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4:30am (0130 GMT), 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 also confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity.
It came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
The escalation began on Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza, drawing waves of Israeli retaliatory strikes, and continued throughout Sunday.
At least 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed.
Four Israelis civilians were also killed.
The flare-up came as Hamas sought further steps from Israel towards easing its blockade under a previous ceasefire brokered by Egypt and the UN.
Israel at the same time faced pressure to restore calm and put an end to the rockets hitting communities in the country’s south.
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.
Among the steps, he said, were the relaxing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not address the ceasefire in a Monday statement, but said: “We’ve forcefully struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” “The battle is not over and demands patience and discretion,” he said.
Israeli opposition politicians — and at least one from Netanyahu’s own party — criticised the agreement.
Former military chief Benny Gantz, who challenged Netanyahu in Israel’s April 9 general elections, called it “capitulation to blackmail”.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2019