32 dead, including six children as Israel pounds Gaza
Israel and Palestinian militants 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 (1900 GMT).
Spokespeople for Israel and Islamic Jihad, the faction it has been fighting in Gaza since clashes erupted on Friday, did not confirm this, saying only that they were in contact with Cairo.
The flare-up, recalling preludes to previous Gaza wars, has worried world powers. However, it has been relatively contained as Hamas, the governing Islamist group in the Gaza Strip and more powerful force than Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far stayed out.
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 death toll from violence in Gaza rose to 32, including six children, on Sunday according to Palestinian health officials as Israel continued its assault on the territory for the third consecutive day.
An Israeli airstrike also killed a second senior commander of a Palestinian armed group, the fighters said on Sunday. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement (PIJ) retaliated with barrages of rockets fired at Israel as the country pressed on with its assault on Gaza.
The killing late Saturday of Khaled Mansour, who led the Islamic Jihad’s operations in the southern Gaza Strip, came a day after another Israeli strike killed the militant’s commander in the north.
The death toll from violence in Gaza since Israel launched its latest strikes Friday rose to 32, including six children, the health ministry in the Palestinian enclave said on Sunday. More than 215 others were wounded in the attacks.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israel pressed on with its operation against the Islamic Jihad group, arresting 20 suspects in overnight raids, the army announced on Sunday.
Palestinian militants retaliated with rockets fired toward Israel, triggering air raid sirens in Jerusalem, the Israel army said Sunday. The Islamic Jihad later confirmed the group had fired rockets at Jerusalem.
The hundreds of rockets fired by Islamic Jihad in response is why the operation continues, said Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar, a member of the decision-making security cabinet.
Another potential flashpoint loomed on Sunday as Jews commemorating two ancient temples visited a major Jerusalem mosque compound that they revere as vestige of those shrines. Palestinians deem such visits a religious and political affront.
The Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad confirmed Sunday that an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah killed Mansour and two fellow fighters. The armed wing of PIJ said the strike also killed five civilians, including a child and three women, as it flattened several homes.
The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.
Hamas, th e larger armed group that rules Gaza, appeared to remain on the sidelines of the conflict for now, keeping its response limited. Israel and Hamas fought a war barely a year ago, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years that exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s two million Palestinian residents.
Daily life in the strip has come to a standstill, while the electricity distributor said the sole power station shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.
Gaza’s health ministry said the next few hours will be “crucial and difficult”, warning it risked suspending vital services within 72 hours as a result of the lack of electricity.—Agencies