Hamas, Islamic Jihad say ceasefire reached with Israel after day of fighting

Posted at 6:42 PM, Jul 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-14 19:31:17-04

A plume of smoke rises Saturday after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in southern Gaza.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two largest militant factions in Gaza, said Saturday a ceasefire agreement was reached with Israel following a serious spike in fighting between the two sides over the past 24 hours.

Two hundred projectiles, including rockets and mortars, were fired toward Israel in the previous 24 hours, Israel Defense Forces said. Israel said it carried out what it called its single largest bombing campaign in Gaza since the 2014 war.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told CNN that “since the start of the Israeli strikes on Gaza, various mediation efforts (led by Egypt) to stop the aggression have succeeded in bringing calm and stopping this aggressive escalation.”

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab told CNN, “There have been great efforts … to bring back calm to Gaza. We have agreed to the Egyptian efforts and agreed to the calm and ceasefire as of 8 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), if the Occupation commits to stopping its aggression,” using “Occupation” to refer to Israel.

A spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said Israel had no comment to make regarding reports of the ceasefire agreement.

Two Palestinian teenagers, Amir Al-Numra, 15, and Luay Kahil, 16, were killed in Saturday’s airstrikes, according to Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf Al Qidra. Twelve others were injured.

The Israeli military said it had targeted dozens of military sites in four Hamas military compounds in Gaza, including two Hamas tunnels, weapon depots, training facilities and command centers.

Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovic, chief of Israel’s aerial defense command, told reporters that the country’s Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted more than 20 projectiles, while many of the rest landed in open areas.

Israeli police said bomb disposal experts responded to four sites close to the Gaza perimeter where rockets had struck, causing damage and injuries. Three Israelis were treated with shrapnel wounds, ranging from light to moderate, in the town of Sderot after a rocket landed on their house, according to Israeli medical service spokesman Zaki Heller.

Escalation followed a day of unrest along the fence between Israel and Gaza.

One Palestinian, Othman Hellas, 15, was killed and 220 injured Friday when the Israeli military used live fire and tear gas on protesters, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Another Palestinian, Mohamed Shorab, 20, died Saturday from wounds sustained during Friday’s protests, according to the ministry.

The IDF said Palestinian protesters targeted the fence and Israeli soldiers with explosive devices and firebombs. One Israeli officer was moderately injured when a grenade hit him, the IDF said.

Tension along the Gaza border fence has been simmering for months, at times erupting into violent clashes.

Israel has been accused of using excessive force against protesters, an allegation its leaders have denied.

Israel claims Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, is orchestrating the protests.

Earlier this week, Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, called on Israel and Hamas to step back from further escalation after Israel restricted the passage of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. Israel clamped down on the crossing after a wave of incendiary and explosive kites were flown from Gaza into Israel in recent weeks.

Kerem Shalom is the main crossing through which goods can enter or exit Gaza. The Israeli military said humanitarian supplies, including food and medicine, would be allowed to cross pending approval on an individual basis.