Palestinian Factions Announce Gaza Ceasefire

Tuesday, 13 November, 2018 - 19:45
Asharq Al-Awsat

Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip announced on Tuesday an Egypt-sponsored ceasefire in the Gaza Strip after a flare-up with Israel that put the enclave on the brink of war.

The factions, including Hamas, issued a joint statement saying they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and the military had not commented on the announcement.

Israel's hardline defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, issued a statement saying he did not support stopping the strikes.

"Egypt's efforts have been able to achieve a ceasefire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy," the statement by the Gaza groups said.

"The resistance will respect this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy respects it."

Kuwait and Bolivia meanwhile requested an urgent closed-door meeting later Tuesday of the UN Security Council to discuss the violence, diplomats said.

The violent escalation between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza was the worst since a 2014 war.

Seven Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the course of some 24 hours as Israeli strikes targeted militants and flattened buildings while sending fireballs and plumes of smoke into the sky.

Sirens wailed in southern Israel and tens of thousands of residents had taken cover in shelters as around 460 rockets and mortar rounds were fired from the Gaza Strip, wounding 27 people, including three severely.

A Palestinian laborer from the occupied West Bank was killed when a rocket hit a building in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Schools were closed in the Gaza Strip and in southern Israel as both sides warned the other that it would respond forcefully to any further violence.

Egypt has negotiated ceasefires following previous flare-ups, while UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov has also been seeking a long-term truce between the two sides in recent weeks.

Mladenov had earlier called the escalation "extremely dangerous" and said on Twitter that "restraint must be shown by all".

After an Israeli security cabinet meeting that reportedly lasted some six hours on Tuesday, a statement was issued saying the ministers "instructed the (military) to continue its operations as necessary".

Netanyahu had cut short a visit to Paris as tensions rose and arrived back home on Monday.

The latest round of violence began on Sunday with a botched Israeli special forces operation inside the Gaza Strip that turned deadly and prompted Hamas to vow revenge.

The clash that resulted from the blown covert operation killed seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas military commander, as well as an Israeli army officer.

Palestinians responded with rocket and mortar fire, as well as an anti-tank missile that hit a bus that Hamas says was being used by Israeli soldiers. A soldier was severely wounded in the attack.

Missile defenses intercepted more than 100 rockets from Gaza and most others fell in open areas, though some hit houses and other civilian structures.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and protests and clashes along the Gaza border since March 30 have repeatedly raised fears of a fourth.

At least 234 Palestinians in Gaza have since been killed by Israeli fire, the majority during protests and clashes.

Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.

Read More ...