Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad agree Gaza truce

Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad agree Gaza truce

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -A truce between Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group officially came into effect late on Saturday night, with an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement meant to end the worst episode of cross-border fire since a 10-day war in 2021.

As fighting tapered off, streets in Gaza that had largely been deserted filled with Palestinians. Some people cheered and honked car horns while others headed to the homes of people killed in the fighting to show their respect.

"In light of the agreement of the Palestinian and the Israeli side, Egypt announces a ceasefire between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides has been reached," a text of the agreement seen by Reuters read.

"The two sides will abide by the ceasefire which will include an end to targeting civilians, house demolition, an end to targeting individuals immediately when the ceasefire goes into effect," it said.

Israel's national security adviser thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for Cairo's efforts, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"Quiet will be met with quiet and if Israel will be attacked or threatened, it shall continue to do what it must in order to defend itself," the statement said.

Islamic Jihad also confirmed the agreement. "We declare our acceptance of the Egyptian announcement and we will abide by it as long as the occupation (Israel) abides by it," the group's spokesman, Dawoud Shehab, said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre welcomed the ceasefire on Saturday night, joining the Israeli government in acknowledging Sisi's and Egypt's mediation efforts, and thanking Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Even as the truce was being finalised, the two sides kept up firing, with air raid sirens sounding as far as Tel Aviv's suburbs and Israel's military announcing it had hit Islamic Jihad targets in response to rocket fire.

Though happy about news of the truce, some Gaza residents, weary of repeated flare-ups, feared that another round of fighting would erupt before long. "We want the truce to be based on principles, not like in the past when after a calm (truce) people died," said resident Munir Marouf, 43.

Israel launched the latest round of airstrikes in the early hours of Tuesday, announcing that it was targeting Islamic Jihad commanders who had planned attacks in Israel.

In response, the Iranian-backed group fired more than 1,000 rockets, sending Israelis fleeing into bomb shelters.

During the five days of the campaign, Israel killed six senior Islamic Jihad commanders and destroyed a number of military installations.

At least 10 civilians, including women and children, were also killed in Gaza during the fighting, and two people - an Israeli woman and a Palestinian labourer - were killed by Palestinian rocket fire in Israel.

Islamic Jihad spurns coexistence with Israel and preaches its destruction. Top ministers of Israel's religious nationalist government rule out any state sought by Palestinians in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

(Additional reporting by Hatem Maher and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Writing by Maayan Lubell and James Mackenzie; Editing by Mark Potter, Jason Neely, Leslie Adler and Edmund Klamann)