Egypt brokers cease-fire between Israel, Palestinian militants
Cairo/Jerusalem/Gaza, May 13 (EFE).- Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militia agreed Saturday to a truce after five days of airstrikes and rocket barrages that have left 35 people dead, the vast majority of them in Gaza, Egypt’s Al-Qahera News television reported.
“In the light of the agreement of the Palestinian and the Israeli side, Egypt announces a cease-fire between the Palestinian and the Israeli side has been reached,” a text of the accord said.
“The two sides will abide by the ceasefire which will include an end to targeting civilians, house demolition, an end to targeting individuals immediately when the cease-fire goes into effect,” it said.
The truce was set to take effect at 10:00 PM (1900 GMT).
A representative of the PIJ who traveled to Cairo for the talks confirmed the cease-fire agreement in remarks to various Arabic-language media outlets.
“The coming hours are going to be crucial,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The report from Egypt came as the PIJ launched another volley of rockets toward Israel, followed almost immediately by fresh Israel Defense Forces (IDF) airstrikes on Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that National Security Adviser Tzahi Hanegbi conveyed to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the premier’s appreciation for Cairo’s “vigorous efforts to bring about a cease-fire.”
“Quiet will be answered with quiet,” Hanegbi said. “If Israel is attacked or threatened, it will continue to do everything it needs to do in order to defend itself.”
Rumors of an imminent truce have circulated for days against the backdrop of intense diplomatic activity by Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations, but Israel pulled back from the talks on Friday, having already expressed unwillingness to meet the chief demand of the Palestinians: an end to what the IDF calls “targeted killings” of militants.
The Egyptian statement appears to indicate that Israel relented on the question of assassinating militants, but there was no mention of the PIJ’s demand for the body of Khader Adnan, a prominent group member who died in an Israeli prison after an 87-day-long hunger strike.
The IDF’s “Operation Shield and Arrow” began in the wee hours of Tuesday with strikes targeting PIJ personnel and facilities in Gaza.
In its latest bulletin, issued Saturday, the IDF said it had struck 371 objectives, including fighters’ homes, launch sites, tunnels, arms factories, and warehouses.
Over the same period, according to the IDF, the PIJ has launched 1,234 rockets and mortar shells in the direction of Israel.
The health ministry in Gaza said that 33 people have been killed, including seven children and eight other civilians, while the number of wounded stands at 147.
Nine senior members of PIJ are among the fatalities.
One Israeli citizen and one Palestinian working in Israel have died as a result of rocket fire from Gaza.
The roughly 2 million residents of Gaza have been subject since 2007 to an Israeli land, sea, and air blockade and United Nations officials describe conditions in the territory as a humanitarian disaster.
Amid the continuing military exchanges between Israel and Gaza, an IDF raid Saturday in the northern West Bank city of Nablus left two people dead, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry.
Israeli forces opened fire on a group of Palestinians at the Balata refugee camp, killing Jihad Shaker Mashah, 32, and Wasim Yousef al Araj, 19, the ministry said.