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Gaza truce takes effect, ending days of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad

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A fragile ceasefire took effect at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, ending more than three days of intense fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in the Gaza Strip, after a deal was brokered by Egypt and confirmed by both sides.

However, heavy rocket fire from Gaza targeting Sderot, Ashkelon, Beersheba and other local communities continued until minutes before the deadline, and some barrages were fired as late as 20 minutes after the ceasefire took effect. It wasn’t immediately clear if this meant the truce was broken and that the fighting would continue, since previous Israeli operations in the Strip similarly ended with ceasefires that saw some trades of fire after it took effect.

The Israel Defense Forces took no chances, announcing that despite the ceasefire, the restrictions on gatherings and outdoor activities in areas threatened by the rockets were remaining in place and would be reevaluated in the morning.

Earlier unconfirmed reports had said a ceasefire had been agreed for 8 p.m., but that deadline came and went without any announcement or holding of fire.

The Cairo-mediated ceasefire was said to have included an Egyptian promise to work toward the release of several high-profile PIJ members in Israeli custody, though it was unclear what this meant in practice.

As part of the ceasefire, Egypt agreed to work to ensure the release of Khalil al-Awawda, a PIJ member who is hunger-striking in protest of his detention by Israel without any charges, a senior Middle East diplomat told The Times of Israel. The diplomat said Egypt would also work to release PIJ’s West Bank leader Bassam al-Saadi, who was arrested last week in a move believed to have sparked the round of violence in Gaza. The diplomat acknowledged that Saadi’s immediate release would be more difficult to achieve.

The diplomat criticized the Israeli policy of administrative........

© The Times of Israel

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