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Hamas says Gaza cease-fire reached with Israel

AP  |  Jerusalem 

Gaza's rulers has said that a truce had been reached with Israel, ending an intense two-day burst of violence that had pushed the region closer to war.

But the deal did not appear to address the deeper issues that have prevented the bitter enemies from reaching a longer cease-fire arrangement.

Hamas' TV channel reported late Thursday that the Egyptian-brokered deal has taken hold "on the basis of mutual calm." It said the deal was mediated by and other unidentified regional players.

A senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the agreement merely ended the latest round of violence, in which militants fired some 200 rockets at and the carried out a similar number of airstrikes in

He said Egypt, which often serves as a between the sides, would continue the more difficult task of brokering a long-term cease-fire.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media, denied a deal had been reached. But early today, the situation in appeared quiet.

The announcement came shortly after ordered the to take unspecified "strong action" against Gaza militants as the military reinforced units along the border.

In this week's fighting, the said three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 1-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant, were killed in separate airstrikes. Israeli officials said seven people were wounded by rocket or mortar fire on the Israeli side.

At times, Thursday's fighting resembled the 2014 war. In Israel, air raid sirens warning of incoming rocket fire wailed in southern overnight and throughout the day, sending families scrambling into bomb shelters, canceling outdoor summer cultural events and forcing summer camps indoors. The Israeli air force, meanwhile, pounded targets across Gaza.

A Palestinian rocket struck the southern city of late in the afternoon, landing in an open area. It was the first time a rocket had hit the city since the 2014 war.

Shortly after, an Israeli airstrike flattened the five-story cultural center in the Shati refugee camp, a crowded neighborhood of The airstrike set off a powerful explosion and sent a huge plume of black smoke into the air, causing crowds to scream in panic. Medical officials said at least seven bystanders were wounded. The building is home to a popular theater and exhibits plays and other shows on a daily basis. An Egyptian-Palestinian cultural society also has an office in the building.

"The deliberate targeting of a cultural center with airstrikes and destruction ... is a barbaric act," said Hazem Qassem, a Hamas He said the destruction of the Egyptian cultural office was "an Israeli attempt to sabotage" the Egyptian cease-fire efforts.

The said the building served as a Palestinian military installation. Hamas' Interior Ministry, including its secret police, has offices in an adjacent site, but those offices were not hit.

Despite the animosity, the enemies have signaled, through their contacts with Egypt, that they want to avoid another war. Reaching a deal, however, will likely require major concession on both sides.

identified those killed in the airstrikes as 23-year-old and her daughter Bayan, as well as a Hamas fighter,

Kamal Khamash, the woman's brother-in-law, said the family was asleep when the projectile hit the house, and that her husband had been critically wounded. "This is a blatant crime and is responsible for it," he said. In southern Israel, two Thai laborers were among the seven wounded, and rockets damaged buildings in the cities of and The military said it intercepted some 30 rockets, while most of the others landed in open areas.

At the United Nations, Israel's ambassador, Danny Danon, urged the and to condemn Hamas militants for what he called "the unprovoked terrorist attack" on In Washington, State Department said U.S. officials were concerned by the situation in Gaza.

"Overall, we condemn the launching of missile attacks into Israel, and call for an end to the destructive violence. 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," Nauert said. Tension along the Israel-Gaza border has escalated since late March, when Hamas launched what have become regular mass protests along Israel's perimeter fence with Gaza. The protests have been aimed in part at trying to break the blockade.

Israel and Hamas have engaged in several bouts of fighting over the past month. The latest round erupted Tuesday, when the struck a Hamas military post in Gaza after it said militants fired on Israeli troops on the border. Hamas said two of its fighters were killed after taking part in a gunfire parade inside a militant camp.

Over the past four months, 163 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 protesters, according to the and a local rights group. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Gaza sniper during this period.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, August 10 2018. 03:35 IST
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