Israel, Palestinians set for truce from Sunday night|Arab News Japan

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  • Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza

GAZA: Islamic Jihad militants on Sunday agreed terms of an Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel, intended to end three days of intense conflict that has left at least 43 Palestinians dead.

The deal raises hopes of an imminent cessation of the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war last year devastated the impoverished Palestinian coastal territory.

“A short while ago the wording of the Egyptian truce agreement was reached,” senior Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Al-Hindi said in a statement.

Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza, with the militants firing hundreds of rockets in retaliation.

Gaza’s health ministry on Sunday evening raised the death toll to 43 including 15 children, with more than 300 people wounded in the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.

Two Israelis have been injured by shrapnel over the same period, medics reported.

Islamic Jihad’s Hindi said the deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of two prisoners, (Bassem) Al-Saadi and (Khalil) Awawdeh.”

Saadi, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad’s political wing, was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, while militant Awawdeh is also in Israeli detention.

Earlier in the day, an Egyptian security source said that Israel “has accepted” a cease-fire.

Buildings in Gaza have been reduced to rubble, while Israelis have been forced to shelter from a barrage of rockets.

Nour Abu Sultan, who lives west of Gaza, said earlier Sunday that she was “awaiting the declaration of the cease-fire on tenterhooks.”

“We haven’t slept for days (due to) heat and shelling and rockets, the sound of aircrafts hovering above us… is terrifying,” the 29-year-old said.

Dalia Harel, a resident in the Israeli town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, said she was “disappointed” at news of a truce despite her five children being “traumatized.”

“We’re tired of having a military operation every year,” she said. “We need our military and political leaders to get it over with once and for all… we’re not for war, but we can’t go on like this.”

An AFP photographer saw two rockets being intercepted in the center of Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv on Sunday evening.

Two Islamic Jihad rockets earlier in the day had targeted Jerusalem, but they were shot down by the Israeli army.

Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas but often acts independently. Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May.

The Israeli army has said the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralized.”

Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director general of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said medics were treating wounded people in a “very bad condition,” warning of dire shortages of drugs and fuel to run power generators.

“Every minute we receive injured people,” he said earlier Sunday.

Israel said it had “irrefutable” evidence that a stray rocket fired by Islamic Jihad was responsible for the deaths of several children in Gaza’s northern Jabalia area on Saturday.

An AFP photographer saw six dead bodies at the hospital there, including three minors.

“We came running to the place and found body parts lying on the ground… they were torn-apart children,” said Muhammad Abu Sadaa, describing the devastation in Jabalia.

The army said it had struck 139 Islamic Jihad positions, with the militants firing over 600 rockets and mortars, but with more than 100 of those projectiles falling short inside Gaza.

Amid the high tensions, Jews in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem marked the Tisha Be’av fasting day Sunday at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known in Judaism as the Temple Mount.

Some Palestinians shouted “God is greatest” in response, and an AFP photographer was briefly detained by Israeli police, but commemorations passed without major incident.

Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation Friday against Islamic Jihad, which it said was planning an imminent attack.

The army has killed senior leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, including Taysir Al-Jabari in Gaza City and Khaled Mansour in Rafah in the south.

In southern and central Israel, civilians were forced into air raid shelters. Two people were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds and 13 others lightly hurt while running for safety, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.

AFP

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