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World News | Middle East | Israel and Gaza militants agree to cease-fire after weekend of violence
By Loveday Morris
view shows the remains of a building that was destroyed by Israeli air
strikes, in Gaza City May 6, 2019. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
Armed factions in Gaza said that they had agreed to a cease-fire with
Israel that took hold in the early hours of Monday morning, after
militants fired more than 600 rockets toward Israel, which responded
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the
two largest militant groups in Gaza, confirmed that a cease-fire was in
place as of 4:30 a.m. local time. A spokesman for the office of Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on the reports but
the Israeli military said that protective restrictions for civilians in
southern Israel were being lifted as rocket fire had ceased.
the past the prime minister’s office has declined to comment or
outright denied that it has reached truce deals with Hamas, which are
unpopular with parts of the Israeli population and Netanayhu’s own
government. On Monday Netanyahu said the campaign was “not over and
demands patience and sagacity.”
“We are prepared to continue,” he said.
the previous 48 hours, four Israelis were killed as dozens of rockets
slammed into urban areas of Israel’s south. Palestinian health officials
in Gaza said 25 people died as Israel responded with airstrikes that
brought buildings in the densely populated strip tumbling down.
was the worst bout of violence since the 2014 war between Israel and
Hamas, which rules Gaza, and involved the first Israeli civilian deaths
by rocket fire since that clash.
officials said they escalated the violence to push Israel to stick to
the terms it had agreed after another such flare up in March, when
rocket fire had caused Netanyahu to cut short a trip to Washington. It
accused Israel of reneging on the deal to allow in cash assistance of
$30 million a month from Qatar, expand fishing rights and ease the
restrictions on imports and exports that have choked Gaza’s economy.
Gaza’s beleaguered population of 2 million people increasingly turning
its frustrations toward Hamas, the organization has been desperate to
secure an easing of Israeli restrictions, particularly as the Muslim
holy month of Ramadan approached. Egypt, which has been brokering
efforts to reach a longer-term truce, has been opening its land border
with Gaza more frequently.
has also been under criticism from right-wing coalition partners, and
residents of southern Israel, for agreeing on deals with Hamas after a
spate of rocket fire. This time though, the stakes were particularly
high for Israel, as international teams began flying in for Eurovision,
an international singing contest, the hosting of which has been a major
source of national pride.
Madonna is slated to perform in the event which will be broadcast from Tel Aviv — in range of Gaza’s rockets.
Naim, a Hamas official, said that made it a particularly good time to
pressure Israel, with its independence day celebrations also held this
Islamic Jihad, which the Israeli
military accuses of starting the latest round of violence, said that
Israel had agreed to implement the previously agreed “mechanisms” to
ease restrictions. “Our people are waiting for an end to the siege,” it
said. “The agreement stipulates that the calm is reciprocal and
Overnight President Trump tweeted that the United States supports Israel “100% in its defense of its citizens.”
“To the Gazan people - these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery,” he wrote.
has said it has also asked Israel to stop the use of live ammunition
against the weekly demonstrations of Palestinian residents on the border
fence with Israel.
Gaza health authorities
said that two more Palestinian bodies were pulled out of the rubble on
Monday, taking the total killed over the weekend to 25. Of those, Israel
denied that two, a pregnant woman and a baby, died as a result of its
airstrikes, saying they were hit when a Palestinian rocket misfired. The
Palestinian health authority in Gaza said the dead also included
another pregnant woman and infant, and a 12-year-old boy. Militant
factions said at least nine of the dead were their fighters, with eight
of them from the Islamic Jihad, according to the group.
the flare-up, Israel said it carried out its first targeted
assassination in Gaza after a hiatus of several years. Netanyahu’s
right-wing coalition partners had been calling for the policy to be
The Israeli military said that
it had targeted a 34-year-old man who worked in a money exchange office
and was responsible for channeling Iranian funds to Hamas and Islamic
Jihad. An airstrike hit his car on a busy street in Gaza City on