Israel, Hamas Agree Truce to End Gaza Escalation (VIDEO)

Israeli air raid on Gaza. (Photo: via Twitter)

Israel and Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, agreed on a truce on Thursday, two Palestinian officials said, an understanding that would end an escalation in fighting that has drawn mutual threats of war, Reuters reports.

There was no formal comment from Israel, but an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity denied a cease-fire had been reached. Israel rarely acknowledges reaching any such agreement with Hamas.

A surge in cross-border rockets and air strikes in recent weeks have prompted the United Nations and Egypt to try to broker a truce to prevent another all-out conflict.

On Wednesday night and Thursday, Israeli aircraft struck more than 150 targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants fired scores of rockets including a long-range missile deep into Israel, escalating fighting despite the ongoing truce talks.

A Palestinian official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters:

“Egyptian efforts managed to restore calm between Palestinian factions and Israel that will end the current escalation. Palestinian factions will respect calm as long as Israel does.”

A second Palestinian official with knowledge of the talks said the cease-fire would begin at 20:45 GMT.

Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee, a smaller faction in Gaza, said on his Facebook page:

“Upon Egyptian and international efforts, a ceasefire between Palestinian resistance began conditional on the commitment of the occupation.”

Hours earlier, after the long-range Palestinian missile attack – the first of its kind since a 2014 war, Israeli air strikes had resumed after a short lull, flattening a multi-storey building that the Israeli military described as a Hamas headquarters.

A pregnant Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old child were killed in the Israeli attacks overnight on Wednesday. Hundreds of people took part in the funeral for the woman and child.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet late into the night on Thursday. A statement issued by his office before reports a truce had been reached said the forum instructed the military to “keep acting with force against the terrorists”.

The US State Department condemned the launching of missile attacks into Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said:

“We’ve seen reports that 180 or so rocket attacks have taken place, shot from Gaza into Israel, and we fully support Israel’s right to defend itself and to take actions to prevent provocations of that nature.”

Egypt and the United Nations have been trying to mediate a comprehensive cease-fire to prevent an escalation in fighting and to ease the deep economic hardship in Gaza, a narrow strip of land that is home to 2 million Palestinians.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the United Nations had engaged with Egypt in an “unprecedented effort” to avoid serious conflict, but “the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people”.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

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