Israel under attack as air raid sirens go off – hours after ceasefire agreed

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Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group had reached a ceasefire to end the heaviest Gaza fighting in months that killed at least 34 Palestinians, including eight children, and paralysed parts of Israel. Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal came into effect at 5.30am on Thursday. An Israeli military spokesman tweeted that the Gaza operation “is over”. Some restrictions were lifted on residents of southern Israel and traffic returned to the streets of the Palestinian coastal territory.

Israel hailed the operation as a victory, defending its policy of targeting militants in their homes despite civilian deaths, while Islamic Jihad said it had got Israel to agree to cease fire based on several demands, including a halt to Israel’s targeted killings of the group’s leaders.

The fighting broke out early on Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the Iranian-backed militant group who was said to have been behind a string of rocket attacks and who Israel said was believed to be planning a cross-border infiltration.

The rare targeted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza militants since May. Islamic Jihad fired 450 rockets towards Israel, which responded with scores of air strikes.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group, which is much larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, stayed out of the latest escalation – an indication that it would be brief.

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