Egyptian, UN efforts help broker ceasefire agreement in Gaza

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Hours after violence flared between Israel and Hamas for the second time in a week, reports that a ceasefire has been restored by Egyptian and UN efforts surfaced.

Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza and Israel agreed to a ceasefire early Saturday, after five people including an Israeli soldier were killed Friday.


“With Egyptian and UN efforts, we reached (an agreement) to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

It was the second such ceasefire agreement between the parties in a week and came amid growing fears of a new war.

On Friday an Israeli soldier was shot dead by Palestinian fire along the border, the first killing of a soldier in and around Gaza since a 2014 war between Hamas and the Jewish state.

Three Hamas militants were killed as Israel retaliated with airstrikes on dozens of targets.

A fourth Palestinian man was killed after being shot during a protest on the Gaza-Israel border.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held emergency discussions with cabinet colleagues and military chiefs about the escalation, which follows four months of Palestinian border protests.

After dark on Friday, the Israeli military said that Gaza militants had launched three rockets into Israel, of which two were intercepted by its Iron Dome defense system.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement after holding a phone conversation with Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’ envoy to the region.

“If Hamas continues with rocket launches, the results will be far more severe than they can imagine. Responsibility for the destruction and for human life will be on Hamas,” a statement quoted Lieberman as saying.

Mladenov said on Twitter that “Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right NOW! Those who want to provoke Palestinians and Israelis into another war must not succeed.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who holds little sway over Hamas, called for international intervention to prevent an escalation of the violence, his office said.

(With AFP)

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