Israel, Islamic Jihad declare truce in Gaza

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Israel, Islamic Jihad declare truce in Gaza

JERUSALEM - Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group declared a truce late on Sunday, raising hopes of an end to the most serious flare-up on the Gaza frontier in more than a year.

Israeli forces pounded Palestinian targets over the weekend, triggering rocket attacks against its cities, which had been largely tapered off by the time the truce came into effect at 11.30 pm.

It was announced in separate statements by Islamic Jihad and then Israel, who thanked Egypt for mediating the ceasefire.

The three-day clashes echoed preludes to previous Gaza wars, but were relatively contained as Hamas, the governing Islamist group in the Gaza Strip and a more powerful force than Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, had so far stayed out.

Some 44 Palestinians, almost half of them civilians and including children, had been killed, according to Gaza officials. The rockets have threatened many parts of southern Israel and sent residents to shelters in cities like Tel Aviv and Ashkelon.

Israel launched pre-emptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack to avenge the arrest of a leader of the group, Bassam al-Saadi, in the occupied West Bank.

In response, Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. Ziyad al-Nakhala, the group's leader, said Cairo would work to secure the release of al-Saadi at a news conference in Tehran. Israeli and Egyptian officials did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

On Sunday, Islamic Jihad extended its range to Jerusalem in what it described as a retaliation for the overnight killing of its southern Gaza commander by Israel -- the second such senior officer it lost in the fighting.

Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor shot down the rocket just west of the city. The military said others had fallen short, causing several Gaza deaths, while Hamas said all the Palestinian deaths were caused by Israeli strikes.

Palestinians picked through the ruins of houses after outbreaks of war in 2008 -- 09, 2012 -- 2014 and last year as a result of a surge of bloodshed.

But we don't like to keep silent when women, children and leaders are killed, said a Gaza taxi driver who identified himself only as Abu Mohammad. An eye for an eye.