Hamas, Israel take first steps toward Gaza cease-fire deal

The Gaza fishermen’s committee said Israel would be extending the permitted fishing zone along the Mediterranean coast. (File photo: AP)

A cease-fire deal appeared to take hold between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Sunday, with Israel expanding the permitted fishing zone and easing some tight restrictions on movement through its two main crossings with the Palestinian enclave.

Egyptian mediators have worked in recent days to broker a cease-fire agreement, but talks have been repeatedly interrupted by Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli military reprisals.

The violence has heightened tensions just over a week before Israeli national elections.

In a sign that Egyptian efforts have made progress, the Gaza fishermen’s committee said Israel would be extending the permitted fishing zone along the Mediterranean coast to a maximum of 15 nautical miles (28 kilometers), up from the previous limit of nine nautical miles (17 kilometers). Fishing had been off-limits since Gaza militants launched a rocket toward Tel Aviv

last week, touching off rounds of short but intense cross-border fighting between the bitter enemies.

Israeli officials confirmed that the reopening of the fishing zone would go into effect Monday.

The lifting of some restrictions on the passage of people and cargo in and out of Gaza further indicated a strengthening of the cease-fire, which Hamas officials say would see Israel easing its blockade in exchange for guarantees of quiet.

Israeli and Hamas officials confirmed that the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings were re-opened, in a very restricted fashion, for the first time since violence flared up last Monday.

The first steps toward the restoration of calm were nonetheless punctuated by exchanges of fire along the border. Just hours after Israel announced the re-opening of its main Gaza crossings Sunday, a mortar shell was launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, the army said.

The projectile did not cross into Israeli territory but did set off air-raid sirens in the country’s south.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and no immediate Israeli response.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:54 - GMT 06:54
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