Islamic Jihad announces ceasefire with Israel after day of strikes

Posted May 30, 2018

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups have agreed to a cease-fire, a day after their biggest mortar and rocket barrages on southern Israel since the Gaza War four years ago.

Sirens sounded throughout much of the day in Israel warning of about 70 incoming rockets and shells, some intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system.

With neither side interested in a full-blown conflict, a tense calm appeared to be holding Wednesday as Israeli children went to school in the morning.

A statement issue by the Islamic Jihad said that: "Egypt has requested a calming of the situation".

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened "after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression".

The high Palestinian death toll in the border protests has drawn strong global criticism of Israel, with rights groups saying Israel's use of live fire is illegal because in many cases it has struck unarmed protesters who did not pose an imminent threat to Israeli soldiers.

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Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the most extensive strikes from Gaza since the 2014 war had drawn "the largest IDF retaliatory attack" since that conflict.

The Israeli government did not reply to the Palestinian statements and released no official announcements regarding the ceasefire.

The Israeli army said three soldiers were wounded by projectiles launched from Gaza.

As part of their protest campaign, Palestinians launched a ship from Gaza's Mediterranean coast Tuesday, aiming to break the Israeli blockade of the territory, according to spokesman Sallah Abdulati.

"Israel will make (Hamas) pay for all fire against Israel".

The military wings of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed "responsibility for the striking of military positions and Zionist settlements", saying their strikes were in response to Israeli attacks targeting their positions in recent days.

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Three members of Islamic Jihad were killed in an Israeli strike on Sunday, with the group vowing revenge.

The situation on the border escalated on Monday, particularly after an Israeli tank attacked a militant observation post in response to an attempted violation of the border by two Palestinians.

The demonstrations and surge in violence come amid growing frustration among Palestinians over the prospects for an independent state.

More than 110 Palestinians have been killed as Israeli troops used live fire to prevent a breach of the border fence.

Israel has long said it will not tolerate such attacks, and its warplanes hit more than 30 targets belonging to armed groups, including a cross-border tunnel under construction, the military said.

Such potential targets are usually abandoned by militants when violence with Israel flares.

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One mortar shell exploded near a kindergarten building, a military spokesperson said, damaging the structure.