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Media captionRockets were seen in the sky above Ashkelon in Israel

There has been a lull in hostilities in the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants said that a ceasefire with Israel had been agreed.

It comes after a weekend during which Palestinian militants launched hundreds of rockets into Israel prompting retaliatory air and artillery strikes.

At least four Israelis and 23 Palestinians were killed.

Israel has not confirmed the truce. The violence flared up on Friday during a protest against the blockade of Gaza.

A TV station run by Hamas – the militant movement which controls Gaza – announced that both sides had agreed the ceasefire, beginning at 04:30 local time (01:30 GMT).

Egypt is said to have brokered it – assisted by the United Nations and Qatar.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has not mentioned the truce. Early on Monday it said militants had fired 690 rockets into southern Israel during the past 48 hours – 240 of which had been intercepted by the country’s Iron Dome missile defence system.

In response, Israel had targeted 350 sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the IDF said.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to “continue its massive strikes on terror elements” in Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu says the country’s forces around the strip would be “stepped up with tank, artillery and infantry forces”.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The funeral for one Israeli casualty, Moshe Agadi, was held on Sunday

Israel also closed all schools within 40km (25 miles) of the Gaza strip and opened some shelters to the public.

Monday’s lull comes as the holy month of Ramadan begins for Palestinian Muslims and as Israel prepares to mark its memorial day and independence day.

What do we know about casualties?

Four people have so far died from the violence in Israel:

  • A 58-year-old man died from injuries in a rocket strike on a house in Ashkelon on Saturday night
  • A worker died in Ashkelon on Sunday when a rocket hit a factory
  • Another man, 67, was killed when his car was apparently struck by an anti-tank missile
  • A fourth person, who was in his early 20s, was killed in the southern city of Ashdod

The Gaza health ministry says 23 Palestinians have died across the weekend. Most of the deaths came on Sunday. The Islamic Jihad group said seven of the dead were its members.

Civilians, including a 12-year-old boy and two pregnant women, were also among those reportedly killed.

Israel has contested the account of the death of one woman and her 14-month-old niece on Saturday. They blamed their deaths on a Palestinian rocket that fell short of its target.

On Sunday, the Israeli military admitted a targeted assassination of a Hamas commander named Hamed Hamdan al-Khodari – sharing a video of the apparent moment they hit his car.

The sites Israel says it has destroyed include a multi-storey building in Gaza City, which it said included Hamas intelligence offices.

Turkey said its state news agency Anadolu had an office there. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called Israeli strikes on civilians “a crime against humanity”.

On Sunday night, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said in a statement that “returning to a state of calm is possible” if Israel committed to a “complete ceasefire”.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A car, apparently belonging to a Hamas militant, was one of the sites targeted by Israel on Sunday

How did the latest violence develop?

It began on Friday, during protests in Gaza against the blockade of the area – which Israel says is needed to stop weapons reaching militants.

A Palestinian gunman shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers at the boundary fence. Israel retaliated with an air strike that killed two militants.

The rocket barrage from Gaza began on Saturday morning. A number of homes in Israeli towns and villages were hit.

How does the flare-up in violence compare?

It has been one of the biggest surges in violence since the conflict of July and August 2014.

In that year, Israel launched a ground offensive on Gaza following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers.

The conflict resulted in the death of 67 Israeli soldiers. Hamas and its allies launched more than 4,500 rocket strikes that killed six civilians in Israel.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People are seen crouching amid a siren warning in the Israeli city of Ashkelon

On the Palestinian side, 2,251 people, including 1,462 civilians, were killed in the seven-week conflict, according to the UN.

Since then, Palestinian militants have continued to carry out sporadic strikes on Israel.

In a previous wave this year, in March, several rockets were fired into southern Israel, triggering raids on Gaza by the Israeli air force. No fatalities were reported on either side.

In early April a ceasefire was brokered by Egypt, but Hamas and allied militant groups later accused Israel of violating its terms.

What has the reaction been?

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has condemned the recent violence and said the UN is working with both sides to calm the violence.

In a statement, UN Chief Antonio Guterres has condemned “in the strongest terms” rockets being launched into Israel.

“He urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint, immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months,” the statement added.

President Donald Trump said the US supported Israel 100% and warned Palestinians that “these terrorist acts Israel will bring you nothing but more misery”.

The European Union on Sunday called for rocket fire to “stop immediately”.

Iran’s foreign minister condemned what he labelled as Israel’s “savage” attacks on Gaza, while also hitting out at “unlimited American support” of Israel.

Save the Children has said it has had to suspend all but essential programs in the Gaza strip.

Jeremy Stoner, their Middle East Regional Director, said the group were “deeply alarmed” by rapidly rising casualties on both sides, and called for de-escalation.


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