Hamas, Israel reach ceasefire after a wave of strikes on Gaza

Minnie Murray
July 15, 2018

Strikes on Saturday morning by Israeli jets have left smoke billowing above the Gaza Strip, and militants allied with Hamas stating it fired rockets across the border in return.

However, Israeli airstrikes Saturday have injured hundreds of civilians, and killed two Palestinian teens who were at a public park next to a unfinished building, Gaza's Health Ministry reported.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip, said late Saturday a ceasefire had been reached with the help of Egypt and others, though Israel declined to comment.

The fighting comes after months of incendiary attacks on southern Israel, which have seen Palestinians use balloons and kites to fly firebombs across the border, sparking fires that have caused millions of shekels in damage. "Hamas is responsible for the events transpiring in Gaza and emanating from it and will bear the consequences for its actions", the IDF said.

Amir al-Nimri, 15, and Luay Kaheel, 16, died of their wounds on Saturday shortly after an air strike targeted al-Kateeba, an area in western Gaza, the health ministry said.

The rare strike in the heart of Gaza City blew out windows at a nearby mosque, an art gallery, government offices, a tech start-up company and dozens of houses, leaving light fixtures and wiring dangling.

"We have no intention of tolerating rockets, kites, drones or anything", said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza have exchanged mortar and rocket fire intermittently since May amid weekly Palestinians demonstrations at the border fence that have often been violent. The tiny territory has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas, considered a terrorist group by much of the West, wrested power in 2007.

Late Saturday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza announced that they had agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Egypt, but sirens warning of incoming rockets still wailed in southern Israel early Sunday and it was unclear if the cease-fire was holding.

The United Nations' Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov was in Gaza and "working with all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation", a UN official said on condition of anonymity. A police spokesman said no hits had been recorded in the city.

"In the wake of events overnight we have attacked 40 terrorist targets, including the destruction of the headquarters of the Beit Lahia Battalion", said Chief IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen Ronen Manelis.

With Israel focused on efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in neighboring Syria, it has been wary of escalating violence in Gaza. Meanwhile, the military says an Israeli officer was lightly wounded by a grenade thrown at him during the near-weekly protests along the border Friday.

Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an airstrike, while three Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a residential home.

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