Israel, Palestinians agree truce from Sunday evening

by Abbas Adil

Israel and Palestinian fighters have agreed to a truce in Gaza from Sunday evening as mediated by Cairo, sources said, after a weekend-long pounding of Palestinian targets by Israel triggered longer-range rocket attacks against its cities.

An Egyptian security source said Israel had agreed to the proposal, while a Palestinian official familiar with Egyptian efforts said the ceasefire would go into effect at 20:00 (1700 GMT).

Spokespeople for Israel and Islamic Jihad, the faction it has been fighting in Gaza, did not confirm this, saying only that they were in contact with Cairo.

The flare-up, recalling preludes to previous Gaza attacks, has worried world powers. However, it has been relatively contained as Hamas, the governing group in the Gaza Strip and a more powerful force than the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far stayed out.

Gaza officials said 31 Palestinians, at least a third of them civilians, had so far been killed.

The Egyptian security source said earlier that the proposed truce was to take effect at 2100 GMT.

On Sunday morning, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire toward Jerusalem in what it described as retaliation for the overnight killing of its southern Gaza commander by Israel — the second such senior officer it has lost in the fighting.

“The blood of the martyrs will not be wasted,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement.

The salvo came as religious Jews were fasting in an annual commemoration of two Jerusalem temples destroyed in antiquity. Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor, whose success rate the army put at 97 per cent, shot down the rockets just west of the city.

Palestinians dazed by another surge of bloodshed — after outbreaks of attacks in 2008-09, 2012, 2014 and last year — picked through the ruins of houses to salvage furniture or documents.

“Who wants a war? No one. But we also don’t like to keep silent when women, children and leaders are killed,” said a Gaza taxi driver who identified himself only as Abu Mohammad.

“An eye for an eye.”

Israel put the onus on Islamic Jihad to stop shooting. “Quiet will be answered with quiet,” an army spokesman said.

In another potential flashpoint, Jews marking the Tisha Be’av fast visited the site where their ancient temples once stood — the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The scheduled visits affront Palestinians for whom Al Aqsa is a national as well as a religious symbol. Video circulated online showed some Jews trying to pray in defiance of Israeli regulations, as police moved in to stop them and Muslim worshippers shouted in protest.

Israel launched what it called pre-emptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack meant to avenge the arrest of a leader of the group in the occupied West Bank. Arrest sweeps against the group have continued in that territory.

The “hundreds of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad” in response are the reason for the continuing operation, according to Israeli security cabinet minister Gideon Saar.

“To the extent that Islamic Jihad wants to protract this operation, it will regret it,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Jerusalem
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. Both are blacklisted as terrorist organisations by much of the West.

Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May.

A flare-up with Islamic Jihad came in 2019, following Israel’s killing of Baha Abu al-Ata, Jabari’s predecessor. Hamas did not join the fray in that conflict.

Hamas’s moves now could prove crucial, with the group facing pressure from some to restore calm in order to improve economic conditions in Gaza.

Pakistan condemns storming of Al Aqsa mosque
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office (FO) strongly condemned the storming of Al Aqsa mosque’s courtyard by Israeli settlers under the protection of occupying forces.

“This provocative action has blatantly violated the sanctity of the Qibla-i-Awal and hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world,” the FO said in a press release.

The FO said such incidents were “flagrant violations of international law, international norms and practices”, adding that any attempt to change Al Aqsa mosque’s historical and legal status must stop.

“Pakistan calls upon the international community to take urgent action to put an end to the Israeli aggression and violations, which continue to fuel violence, tension and instability in the region.”

Senator Sherry Rehman also strongly rebuked the “indiscriminate Israeli aggression”.

Pakistan had on Saturday strongly condemned airstrikes by Israel on Gaza that resulted in injuries and deaths of Palestinians, including a five-year-old girl.

Censuring the attacks, the FO had said the latest spate of aggression was “typical of the Israeli atrocities, illegal actions and indiscriminate use of force against innocent Palestinians over the decades in complete defiance of international human rights and humanitarian laws”.

The FO had called upon the international community to urge Israel to put an immediate end to the “blatant use of force and flagrant violations of human rights”, adding that it was “imperative” to immediately stop the aggression.

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