Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement in Gaza Agree to Ceasefire After Days of Rocket Attacks

A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza is set to go into effect Sunday night after a deal was struck with the help of Egyptian mediators, the militant group said.

The agreement has raised hopes that the worst flare-up at the Gaza border in more than a year will come to an end.

“We appreciate Egypt’s efforts to end Israeli aggression against our people,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Tareq Selmi said.

On Friday, clashes broke out for the first time between Israel and Islamic Jihad, the faction it fought in Gaza.

Despite troubling global powers, the conflict has remained relatively contained as Hamas, the ruling Islamist group in the Gaza Strip and a stronger force than Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far been left out.

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

Israel has said its Iron Dome defense system successfully intercepted 97 percent of rocket attacks on its cities after a weekend of shelling Palestinian targets by the country’s military, killing 31.

The Israeli military said militants in Gaza fired some 580 rockets at Israel, but its air defenses intercepted many of them, firing two of the shot toward Jerusalem.

The rockets have paralyzed much of southern Israel and sent residents of cities like Tel Aviv and Ashkelon to shelters.

On Sunday morning, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire on Jerusalem in retaliation for the nighttime killing of its commander in southern Gaza by Israel — the second senior officer to have lost in the fighting.

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

Israel on Friday launched what it called pre-emptive strikes against what it expected to be an Islamic Jihad attack aimed at avenging the arrest of a leader of the group in the occupied West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces said it hit 11 Islamic Jihad missile launch sites over the Gaza Strip on Sunday, and arrests against the group have continued.

The hundreds of missiles fired by Islamic Jihad in response were the reason for continuing the operation, according to Israeli Security Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

“To the extent that Islamic Jihad wants to continue this operation, it will regret it,” he told Israel Defense Forces Radio.

Additional reporting by agencies

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