Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza agree truce after days of rocket attacks

A ceasefire between between Israel and Palestinian militants began on Sunday night in a bid to end nearly three days of violence which killed dozens of people in Gaza.

The agreement, brokered by Egypt, has raised hopes of an end to the most serious flare-up on the Gaza border in more than a year.

“We appreciate the Egyptian efforts that had been exerted to end the Israeli aggression against our people,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Tareq Selmi said.

Clashes first erupted between Israel and Islamic Jihad, the faction it has been fighting in Gaza, on Friday.

Despite worrying world powers, the conflict has been relatively contained because Hamas, the governing Islamist group in the Gaza Strip and a more powerful force than Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far stayed out.

Gaza officials said 31 Palestinians, at least a third of them civilians, had so far been killed.

Israel has said its Iron Dome defence system has successfully intercepted 97 per cent of rocket attacks against its cities after a weekend-long pounding of Palestinian targets by the country’s military left 31 dead.

The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired some 580 rockets toward Israel, but that its air defences had intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down being fired toward Jerusalem.

The rockets have paralysed much of southern Israel and sent residents in cities including Tel Aviv and Ashkelon to shelters.

On Sunday morning, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire toward Jerusalem in what it described as retaliation for the overnight killing of its southern Gaza commander by Israel – the second such senior officer it has lost in the fighting.

“The blood of the martyrs will not be wasted,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement.

Israel launched what it called pre-emptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack meant to avenge the arrest of a leader of the group in the occupied West Bank.

The Israel Defence Forces said it had struck 11 Islamic Jihad rocket-launching positions across the Gaza Strip on Sunday, and arrest sweeps against the group have continued.

The hundreds of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad in response were the reason for the continuing operation, according to Israeli security cabinet minister Gideon Sa’ar.

“To the extent that Islamic Jihad wants to protract this operation, it will regret it,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Additional reporting by agencies

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