GAZA / JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, took place on Saturday, one day after one of the most violent thrusts along the volatile border, in recent years.
Hamas said it had agreed to the ceasefire with Israel, one day after the clashes killed one Israeli soldier and four Palestinians, three of them Hamas fighters.
A senior Israeli official confirmed a ceasefire. The Israeli military refused to comment on the ceasefire, but a military spokeswoman said civilians could resume their normal activities.
In an isolated incident that contained no reports of casualties, an Israeli tank fired at a Hamas post in Gaza after Palestinian suspects broke through the border fence and invaded Israeli territory before withdrawing back to Gaza.
On Saturday at 1300 GMT there were no further reports of unrest in the area.
On Friday, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier and the Israeli military launched dozens of strikes that killed three Hamas fighters. A fourth Palestinian was killed in a protest near the border of Israeli firearms.
"It has been agreed with the efforts of Egypt and the United Nations to return to the era of calm between (Israeli) and Palestinian groups," said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Hamas Islamist group, which controls Gaza.
The soldier was the first member of the Israeli army to be killed in a seven-week war between Israel and Hamas on the Gaza front, a military spokesman said.
During several hours of failure, the Israeli military said its jets and tanks hit 68 Hamas targets, "destroyed buildings and infrastructure, and revoked significant military and command and control capabilities."
"Hamas took a huge hit yesterday and through the Egyptians demanded a ceasefire," said a senior Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Israeli strikes shook buildings in Gaza and fire lit up the night sky. Pillars of thick smoke rose from the bombing raids. The sounds of ambulance sirens racing through the streets were heard by local residents who were about to escalate.
Officials from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations maintained contacts with Hamas and Israel to restore calm and prevent violence from rising, Hamas official Taher Nono told Reuters.
In recent weeks, the border between Israel and Gaza has witnessed some of the worst acts of violence since the 2014 war. The ceasefire is the third ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to be negotiated this year by Egypt and the second ceasefire agreed last week after a one-day struggle.
Weekly clashes on the border between Israel and Gaza have kept tensions up for months. At least 140 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces every week during the March protests on the border, including one man killed during the demonstration on Friday and more than 200 others injured, many with tear gas.
During this time, fires caused by brand balloons and kites fired across the border by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have destroyed areas of Israeli farmland. Israel has vowed to stop the attacks, even if major conflicts threaten.
The Israeli official said that Hamas had promised the Egyptians "to end the fire terrorism and terrorism along the border fence".
But Hamas & # 39; Nono said the ceasefire would not mean that Israel would gain the upper hand. "We will not allow any (Israeli) imposition of new equations on the ground," he told Reuters.
Israel says that Hamas has organized the demonstrations referred to as the "Great March of Return" to cover the cross-border attacks of militant fighters. Hamas denies this.
The organizers of the protest say they demanded the right to return to the countries Israel had lost in the war founded in 1948 and for an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Israel and Egypt say the blockade is designed to curb security threats to Hamas and other armed groups.
The increase in violence is taking place as Palestinian hopes for an independent state have shrunk and the peace talks have stalled. Gaza, home to 2 million people, most of whom rely on foreign aid, has been under Israeli economic sanctions for 12 years.
U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy condemned Hamas on Friday after the fighting began. "Hamas is working tirelessly to destroy Israeli life (and the people of Gaza suffer from Hamas)," Jason Greenblatt said on Twitter. Israel and the US refer to Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Report by Nidal al-Mughrabi, written by Maayan Lubell and Ori Lewis; Editing by James Dalgleish and Ros Russell