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GAZA CITY: An Egyptian-brokered “fragile” truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza appeared to be holding early Monday, raising hopes that the recent intense conflict that has left at least 44 Palestinians dead, including 15 children, is ended.
The truce, which officially began at 11:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. GMT) on Sunday evening, aims to stem the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war devastated coastal Palestinian territory last year.
Although a wave of strikes and rocket attacks took place as the truce approached, with sirens blaring in southern Israel moments before and after the deadline, neither side had reported a major breach of agreement after four hours.
In a statement sent three minutes after the start of the ceasefire, the Israeli army said that “in response to the rockets fired towards Israeli territory, the (military) are currently striking a wide range of targets” belonging to the Jihad Islam in Gaza.
In a later statement, the military said its “last” strikes took place at 11:25 p.m.

A fireball rises from the site of an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday evening shortly before a ceasefire came into effect. (AFP)

While the two sides had agreed to the truce, each had warned the other that it would respond with force to any violence.
US President Joe Biden welcomed the ceasefire, thanking Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for his country’s role in brokering it. Biden also called for investigations into civilian casualties, which he called a “tragedy.”
In a statement, UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said: “The situation is still very fragile and I urge all parties to respect the ceasefire.”

US President Joe Biden has said he welcomes the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based militants.
“Over the past 72 hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others across the region to encourage an early resolution. of the conflict,” he said in a statement.
The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on Monday over the violence. China, which holds the council’s presidency this month, scheduled the session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.
“We underline our commitment to do everything possible to end the ongoing escalation, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population and follow up on the file of Palestinian prisoners,” said Tor Wennesland, special coordinator of the United Nations united for the peace process in the Middle East. , in a report.

On Sunday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office thanked ‘Egypt for its efforts’ in agreeing to the truce, but said that ‘if the ceasefire is violated’, Israel ‘retains the right to react strongly’ “.
Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Al-Hindi had previously confirmed that the militants had agreed to the truce, but the group added in a statement that it “also reserves the right to respond” to any aggression.

Israeli warplanes have bombed targets in Gaza since Friday, while the Iran-backed Palestinian Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in response. As long as no truce is reached, the risk that the cross-border fighting will turn into a full-fledged war remains. Israel says some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.

Along with the 44 people killed, including 15 children, Gaza’s health ministry said 360 people were injured in the Palestinian enclave, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas.
Israel insists that several children in the territory were killed by stray militant rockets.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Ashkelon, Israel, just before a ceasefire comes into effect on Sunday evening. (AP)

Three people in Israel were injured by shrapnel, while 31 others received minor injuries, emergency services said.

Islamic Jihad Hindi said the ceasefire agreement “contains Egypt’s commitment to work for the release of two prisoners”.

The couple were named Bassem Al-Saadi, a senior member of the group’s political wing who was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, and Khalil Awawdeh, an activist also detained by Israel.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas group has remained on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli retaliation and the rollback of economic deals with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents. which reinforce his control.
Israel launched its operation with a strike Friday on an Islamic Jihad leader, and followed up Saturday with another targeted strike on a second high-profile leader.

Islamic Jihad’s second-in-command, Khaled Mansour, was killed Saturday night in an airstrike on an apartment building in Gaza’s southern Rafah refugee camp, which also killed two other militants and five civilians.
Mansour, the Islamic Jihad commander for southern Gaza, was in the apartment of a member of the group when the missile struck, flattening the three-story building and severely damaging nearby homes.
“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and everything turned black and dusty with smoke in the blink of an eye,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next to the targeted building.
Ahmed Al-Qaissi, another neighbor, said his wife and son were among the injured, injured by shrapnel. To make room for rescuers, Al-Qaissi agreed to have part of his house demolished.

As Mansour’s funeral began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Israeli military said it was hitting “suspected Islamic Jihad rocket launching posts”. Smoke could be seen from the strikes as the blasts from their explosions rocked Gaza. Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire followed for hours as sirens wailed in central Israel. As the sunset call to prayer sounded in Gaza, sirens wailed as far north as Tel Aviv.
Israel says some of the deaths in this round were caused by errant rocket fire, including an incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed on Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a house in the same neighborhood of Jebaliya, killing two men. The Palestinians held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area had been hit by an errant rocket.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said mortars fired from Gaza hit the Erez border crossing into Israel, used daily by thousands of Gazans. The mortars damaged the roof and shrapnel hit the hall entrance, the ministry said. The crossing point was closed amid the fighting.
The Rafah strike was the deadliest to date in the ongoing series of fighting, which was sparked by Israel on Friday with the targeted killing of the Islamic Jihad commander for northern Gaza.

Israel said it took action against the militant group due to concrete threats of an imminent attack, but did not provide details. Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is an experienced diplomat but has no experience overseeing a war, launched the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep his job.

In a statement on Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza “in a precise and responsible manner to minimize harm to noncombatants.” Lapid said the strike that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement”.
“The operation will continue for as long as necessary,” Lapid said.
Israel estimates that its airstrikes killed around 15 militants.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups call for the destruction of Israel, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by government demands.

The Israeli military said militants in Gaza fired around 580 rockets into Israel. The army said its air defenses intercepted many of them, and two of those shot down were fired towards Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
Air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area for the first time on Sunday since last year’s Israel-Hamas war.
Jerusalem is usually a hot spot during times of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including inflammatory ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under heavy police protection, ended without incident, police said.
Such demonstrative visits by Israeli extremists seeking to underscore Israeli claims of sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem have sparked violence in the past. The holy site sits on the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is central to the rival narratives of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
In Palestinian towns in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they arrested 19 suspected members of Islamic Jihad in overnight raids.
On Sunday, Hamas still seemed to stay out of the fight. The group is strongly urged to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major conflicts and several small battles in the past 15 years, took a heavy toll on the impoverished territory’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit agreements based on exchanging calm for work permits and a slight relaxation of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas invaded the territory there. at 15. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to workers in Gaza and plans to grant another 2,000 permits.
Gaza’s only power plant shut down at noon on Saturday due to a lack of fuel. Israel has kept its crossings into Gaza closed since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gazans can only use four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and worsening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.