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After deadly weekend, Israeli and Gaza activists agree ceasefire

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TEL AVIV — Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip have agreed to a ceasefire after more than two days of airstrikes and rocket attacks that killed 43 people and injured more than 300 in Gaza and forced thousands of Israelis to take shelter in bunkers.

The Islamic Jihad militant group said in a statement that it had agreed to cease hostilities from 11:30 p.m. local time on Sunday. The breakthrough came as conditions inside Gaza grow increasingly dire, with electricity supplies dwindling and hospitals warning that vital services are on the verge of collapsing.

Israel said in a statement it accepted the ceasefire but “retained the right to react strongly” to any violations of the agreement.

Under the agreement, Israel would end the airstrikes it has been carrying out in Gaza since Friday, in which two senior Islamic Jihad leaders were killed. Islamic Jihad was required to stop rocket attacks; it had fired more than 600 projectiles towards Israel, including Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the vast majority of which were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense systems.

The ceasefire ended more than two days of intense cross-border violence that began on Friday, when Israel killed Islamic Jihad’s Tayseer Jabari, the group’s chief of operations in the northern Gaza Strip. On Saturday, Israel killed Khaled Mansour, the head of Islamic Jihad operations in southern Gaza, in an airstrike that demolished a house in Rafah near the border with Egypt.

Israeli and Palestinian diplomats said on Sunday afternoon that ceasefire talks, through secret Egyptian and Qatari channels, were progressing.

The violence continued as the negotiators worked. Footage on social media showed some of the most heartbreaking scenes of an escalation that killed 11 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The videos included a person hit by an explosion while riding a horse and a man fleeing the scene of the strike with the bloody body of a toddler.

Rocket barrages set off air raid sirens in southern and central Israel on Sunday evening, including near Ben Gurion Airport, where officials briefly halted landings after air defense missiles blasted explode at least one projectile near the approaches.

The Israeli military said it struck more than 140 Islamic Jihad targets and ‘neutralized’ the group’s top brass and assets, including the tunnels used by the militants to carry out attacks, weapons storage facilities and rocket launch sites.

No fatalities have been reported in Israel, where the Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted about 97 percent of some 470 rockets fired from Gaza since Friday, according to the Israeli military. He said about 20% missed and landed in Gaza.

Israeli strikes in Gaza kill senior militant operative and at least 9 others

In the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, an explosion killed at least four children on Saturday evening. The Israeli military, which shared satellite images of rocket fire from the enclave, says the deaths were the result of a failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch and that they did not carry out an airstrike at the time of the explosion. He said he was still investigating the circumstances of an explosion in Jabalia on Sunday morning.

A spokesman for Gaza’s interior ministry, Eyad al-Bozom, said Israel “bears full responsibility for this crime and all the crimes it commits in its brutal aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip”.

Muhammad Abu Qaida, from Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, said his cousin Naama Abu Qaida, 56, was among those killed in the Israeli operation. He said she and her family were in a parked car near their home, heading to his daughter’s wedding. Abu Qaida said two members of his family were taken to hospital in critical condition.

“We didn’t expect anything to happen in the area, and there was no shooting from the area,” Abu Qaida said. “It is hundreds of meters from the Erez crossing and exposed to Israel.”

A UN delegation from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab countries in the international body and has expanded its ties with Israel in recent years, has formally tabled a motion to convene the Security Council on behalf of the Palestinians.

The Israeli operation, dubbed Breaking Dawn, comes just over a year after Israel’s May 2021 war in Gaza with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the enclave.

Rockets targeting Jerusalem arrive as observant Jews mark Tisha B’Av, during where more than 2,000 Jews ascended to a disputed holy site known as the Temple Mount by Jews and the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims.

The raised esplanade is officially managed by the Jordanian authorities, which prohibit non-Muslim prayer at the top of the site, although the policy has been increasingly violated in recent years by an increase in the number of politically active Jewish worshippers. Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters at and around the flashpoint site led to the 11-day war last year, which killed more than 200 people in Gaza and 12 people in Israel.

Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of a far-right Israeli movement and an advocate for allowing prayer for visitors of all faiths to the Temple Mount, drove to the site Sunday morning, flanked by police, and shouted, “The nation of Israel lives! The Palestinians around him retorted, “God is great!

“We will never surrender, neither to missiles nor to threats from terrorists or those of us who attack me,” Ben Gvir said on Twitter, including a photo of his son on the Temple Mount.

The final round of fights has begun last week when Israel arrested the leader of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, Bassem al-Saadi, in ongoing raids following attacks by Palestinian citizens of Israel and other Palestinians in the spring.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the delicate security situation, said on Sunday that Israeli security forces arrested 20 Islamic Jihad operatives in overnight raids in the West Bank, in addition to 19 overnight. former.

During the two days of fighting, Hamas did not claim responsibility for firing rockets into Israel. Israel blames the group for all of these attacks originating in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli analysts say any Hamas involvement in the round of fighting would increase the scope of the Israeli operation.

Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh said “intensive efforts with all parties” were underway.

A Middle East official said “talks are ongoing with Egypt to reach a ceasefire”, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the fragility of mediation.

Senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, said Israel was ready to open humanitarian corridors, provide fuel for generators and deliver hospital supplies as soon as the rockets stop.

“Calm will be answered by calm,” he said. “Once Islamic Jihad stops firing and Hamas gets things under control, it could happen very quickly.”

President Biden said in a statement late Sunday that he welcomed the ceasefire announcement.

“My support for Israel’s security is longstanding and unwavering – including its right to defend itself against attack,” he said, adding that the United States supports an investigation into the civilian deaths in Israel. Gaza.

“Israelis and Palestinians both deserve to live in safety and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will remain engaged with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in support of this vision.”

Balousha reported from Gaza City. Miriam Berger in Jerusalem contributed to this report.