Israel and Palestinian militants have agreed to observe a truce in Gaza from Sunday evening as proposed by Cairo, sources said, after a weekend-long pounding of Palestinian targets by Israel drove militants to target its cities with longer-range rockets.
An Egyptian security source said Israel had agreed to the truce offer, while a Palestinian official familiar with Egyptian mediation efforts said it would go into effect at 8pm (7pm GMT).
Spokespeople for Israel and Islamic Jihad, the faction it has been fighting in Gaza since clashes erupted on Friday, did not confirm this, saying only that they were in contact with Cairo.
Earlier on Sunday, sirens sounded and explosions were heard on the western outskirts of Jerusalem, signalling longer-range Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel as it pressed air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said an Israeli airstrike killed its top commander for the southern Gaza Strip.
It came after Israel killed the Iranian-backed group’s commander for northern Gaza in an air raid that triggered the worst cross-border conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants since the end of an 11-day war in 2021.
Al-Quda Brigades of Islamic Jihad confirmed on Sunday that the airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah had killed Khaled Mansour, the commander, and two fellow militants. It said five other civilians, including a child and three women, were also killed in the airstrike that flattened several homes in Rafah.
Late on Saturday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 24 people have been killed so far in the coastal strip, including six children.
The number does not likely include all of those who were killed in the Rafah airstrike because Civil Defence responders were still looking for bodies and survivors under the rubble.
For now, the two highest-ranking commanders in Islamic Jihad and several other militants are among the dead. Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed about 15 militants.
Militants from Islamic Jihad continued firing rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military continued airstrikes on Gaza, though the intensity of the exchange had decreased in the early hours of Sunday.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he was “deeply concerned” about the increasing violence in the area.
“I am deeply concerned about the escalation in and around Gaza and the impact of Israeli strikes on civilians,” Mr Coveney said in a statement this weekend.
“I also condemn the indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza affecting civilians.
“Ireland calls for de-escalation [of violence] and the protection of civilians, which is an obligation under international humanitarian law.
“I am particularly concerned about the impact on children,” the minister said.
“Ireland calls for everybody to act with restraint and reduce tensions.”
The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes on Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.
Hamas, the larger militant group that rules Gaza, appeared to remain on the sidelines of the conflict for now, keeping its response limited.
Israel and Hamas fought a war barely a year ago, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years that exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents.
Whether Hamas continues to stay out of the fight depends in part on how much punishment Israel inflicts on Gaza as rocket fire continues.
The Israeli military said an errant rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed civilians, including children, late on Saturday in the town of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza.
The military said it investigated the incident and concluded “without a doubt” that it was caused by a misfire on the part of Islamic Jihad. There was no official Palestinian comment on the incident.
A Palestinian medical worker who was not authorised to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity said the blast killed at least six people, including three children.
Israeli airstrikes on Saturday killed a 75-year-old woman and wounded six others as they were preparing to go to a wedding. Airstrikes have also destroyed several houses in the Gaza Strip, some of them belonging to Islamic Jihad members.
The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt at noon on Saturday due to a lack of fuel. With the new disruption, Gazans can use only four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.
Israel has kept its crossing points into Gaza closed since Tuesday.
The hundreds of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad in response is why the operation continues, Israeli justice minister Gideon Saar, a member of the decision-making security cabinet, said.
There was no immediate word of casualties on the Jerusalem outskirts, which Islamic Jihad said it had targeted in a rocket attack in retaliation for Israel’s killing of its southern Gaza commander, two other militants and five civilians on Saturday. — PA/ Reuters