GAZA: Palestinian leaders in Gaza agreed to a cease-fire with Israel on Monday to end a deadly two-day escalation in violence that threatened to widen into war.
Israel pounded Gaza with airstrikes and shelling Sunday killing at least 27 Palestinians, including two pregnant women and two babies, in the bloodiest fighting since the 2014 war.
With Palestinian militants threatening to send more rockets into Israel and Israeli reinforcements massing near the Gaza frontier, the fighting showed no signs of slowing down.
The UN Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, called for “a return to the understandings of the past few months before it is too late.”
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes after it was due to take effect, an AFP correspondent in Gaza said.
According to Palestinian sources Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4:30 a.m. (0130 GMT).
The deal came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
The escalation began Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza, drawing waves of Israeli retaliatory strikes, and continued throughout Sunday.
The flare-up came as Palestinian factions sought further steps from Israel toward easing its blockade under a previous cease-fire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.
Israel faced pressure to seek to restore calm and put an end to the rocket fire hitting communities in the country’s south.
Palestinian officials in Gaza accused Israel of not taking steps to ease its blockade as promised under previous cease-fire deals.
The Islamic Jihad official said the new truce agreement was again based on Israel easing its blockade.
Among the steps, he said, were the relaxing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk