Israel, Hamas close to agreeing on ceasefire

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Jerusalem, May 6 (IANS) Israel and Hamas are nearing a ceasefire, brokered by the UN, Egypt and Qatar, after two days of violence, the Palestinian Information Centre said on Monday.

Since Saturday morning, Palestinian militants in Gaza have launched more than 600 rockets at Israel, which has responded with over 320 attacks on military positions, making it the most significant escalation of violence since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, reports Efe news.

A total of 25 Palestinians have been killed in the violence, said the independent Palestinian organisation, citing the Gaza Ministry of Health. Among the victims were 12 militants, two pregnant women, a baby and a child.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defence Forces confirmed the death of four Israeli civilians.

“Air-raid sirens sounding in southern Israel. Over 600 rockets have been fired at Israeli civilians in the last 36 hours,” the IDF said on Twitter.

Israeli and Palestinian media indicated that a ceasefire is imminent.

Egyptian mediators and a Qatari delegation reached an agreement with Hamas for a temporary cessation of hostilities, Palestinian information website Sama reported.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz and state-owned television channel Kan confirmed the existence of negotiations and of a concrete proposal, citing diplomatic sources.

Sama reported that the ceasefire was agreed following Israel’s announcement that it would step up its air strikes and that it does not rule out continuing the targeted assassinations of leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

Hamas has reportedly demanded that this new truce implement the terms set out in a similar pact reached after the last wave of violence at the end of March, including an improvement of the conditions in the Gaza strip, the expansion of the fishing area off the shores of the settlement and authorisation by Israel of the monthly entry of Qatari money and of various goods and humanitarian aid.

An Israeli Army spokesperson announced Sunday evening that two infantry units had been deployed on the border with Gaza and that they were under instructions to be prepared for a conflict lasting several days as well as a ground offensive.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-Gernal Antonio Guterres condemned “in the strongest terms the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, particularly the targeting of civilian population centres”.

He also urged all parties to “exercise maximum restraint, immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months”.

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