Sat, 14 Dec 2019

A Gaza Strip ceasefire agreement to end two days of fighting that has left 32 people dead came into effect early on Thursday, according to an Egyptian source and Islamic Jihad.

The "ceasefire agreement comes as a result of Egypt's efforts" and has been endorsed by "Palestinian factions including Islamic Jihad", said a top Egyptian official.

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An Islamic Jihad source also confirmed the agreement to both AFP and Associated Press.

According to the official, the agreement stipulates that Palestinian factions must ensure a return to calm in Gaza and "maintain peace" during demonstrations, while Israel must stop hostilities and "ensure a ceasefire" during demonstrations by Palestinians.

There was no immediate confirmation of the agreement from Israel.

Its officials had said previously that if Islamic Jihad fighters ceased fire, Israel would follow suit.

Attacks

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The agreement, which entered into force at 05:30 local time (03:30 GMT), came after the death toll from Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip rose to 32.

Palestinian officials said six members of the same family had been killed.

"Six members of the Abu Malhous family, including three children and two women, were killed in an Israeli strike on their family home in Deir al-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip," the Palestinian ministry of health said.

Following an Israeli attack on Tuesday that killed a top Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, the two sides had been exchanging fire, and Israel's military said it recorded more than 350 incoming rockets.

In Israel, air raid sirens wailed and fireballs exploded as air defence missiles intercepted rockets, sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters.

In Gaza, residents surveyed damage and mourned the dead outside a mortuary and at funerals.

United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov arrived in Cairo on Wednesday afternoon, airport officials said, following reports he was to hold talks aimed at halting the fighting.

The UN and Egypt have been instrumental in mediating previous ceasefires between Israel and Gaza-based armed groups.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said Islamic Jihad must stop its rocket attacks or "absorb more and more blows".

Islamic Jihad spokesperson Musab al-Barayem had said the group was not interested in mediation as it retaliated over the killing of one of its commanders.

Israel killed senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata and his wife Asma early on Tuesday. It said Ata was responsible for rocket fire at Israel as well as other attacks and was planning more violence, with the military calling him a "ticking bomb".

The flare-up raised fears of a new all-out conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, which have fought three wars since 2008.

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