Egypt Brokers Truce in Israel-Gaza Border Violence


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JERUSALEM —Egypt helped broker a cease-fire to end the fighting in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

The truce was set to begin at 11:30 p.m. local time (2030 GMT). An Egyptian intelligence official told The Associated Press that both sides had agreed to the truce. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the cease-fire talks.

The cease-fire would end the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year, according to reports.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 31 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, including six children, while Israel says it wasn't responsible for at least nine of the deaths.

The current clashes began when Israel arrested a senior Islamic Jihad official last week and a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed. Islamic Jihad, which is based in Gaza, threatened to retaliate.

On Friday, Israel launched a pre-emptive airstrike on Gaza, killing an Islamic Jihad commander. Since then, Islamic Jihad has fired some 600 missiles at Israel, most of which have been shot down by Israel's Iron Dome system.

Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip have spent much of the past three days in bomb shelters. Adele Riemer lives in Nirim, a kibbutz located just over a kilometer from the Gaza border.

"It's scary. It is scary going outside. You count your steps. You count the distance between ... we have these external safe rooms, so you take maybe a slightly longer path but one that you know has these external safe rooms - reinforced concrete safe rooms, every hundred meters or so ... so life here is you don't get used to it, nobody gets used to stuff like this, but we know how to deal with it," she said.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman said the extremist group still has a large arsenal and that rocket fire will continue. On Sunday, dozens of rockets were fired, including at the outskirts of Jerusalem and the southern city of Beersheba.

Israel, which confirmed the cease-fire was set to take hold late Sunday, told the AP it would respond if it was violated.

Israeli analysts like General Eitan Dangot said the conflict for now is contained but could spiral if the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, becomes involved.

"From Israel's point of view, Hamas is outside this escalation; we have of course nothing to do with the population of Gaza - more than 2 million people," he said.

Analysts say it seems that Hamas supports a cease-fire and does not want to become drawn into the fighting.

Meanwhile, China, France, Ireland, Norway and the United Arab Emirate have requested a closed U.N. Security Council meeting Monday to discuss the developments in Gaza.

Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some material came from The Associated Press and Reuters.