Cairo/Jerusalem/Gaza After days of heavy fighting, Israel and militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have agreed on a ceasefire, according to Palestinian and Egyptian sources. This should come into force late on Sunday evening, according to the Islamic Jihad group involved in the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire was agreed from 11:30 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. CEST). Israel initially did not comment on this. Earlier times had previously been mentioned in circles among the Palestinians and Egypt, which is mediating in the conflict.
A high-ranking Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza in the evening to negotiate details of the ceasefire. The dpa news agency learned this from security circles. The agreement is said to include the release of two Palestinian prisoners in Israel, including Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of Islamic Jihad. His arrest in the West Bank last Monday preceded the latest escalation. Last year, Egypt also mediated a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas after an eleven-day war.
Another hot spot had previously emerged: Several Jews were praying on the grounds of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, in violation of Israeli and Muslim regulations. Palestinians protested against it.
Since Friday, Islamic Jihad has primarily aimed rockets at southern Israel. These are the most serious clashes in over a year. They follow an Israeli special operation against Islamic Jihad in Gaza on Friday, which Israel said killed Tayseer al-Jaabari, a top commander.
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Palestinian militants also fired rockets towards Jerusalem on Sunday. There were no reports of casualties or damage on the Israeli side. However, the new and more distant target showed the escalation on the third day of mutual attacks. Chaled Mansur, a second senior commander of the militant Islamic Jihad, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the south of the Gaza Strip on Sunday night.
Alarm sirens near Jerusalem
Sirens wailed in several communities about five kilometers west of Jerusalem on Sunday morning. An Israeli military spokesman said the missiles were intercepted in mid-air. Islamic Jihad said the organization had launched rocket attacks on Jerusalem in retaliation for the killing of Mansur, their commander in southern Gaza. The jihad then swore revenge: “The blood of the martyrs will not be wasted, and the holy warriors will not let that blood dry until they have bombarded the enemy’s settlements with their rockets.”
According to Palestinian sources, 41 people were killed in the Israeli attacks, including several children. At least a third of the dead are civilians. 203 people were injured on Friday and Saturday. According to information from the rescue service, there were no reports of seriously injured people in Israel.
An escalation also threatened in Jerusalem. There, Jews broke long-established regulations and worshiped on the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Jewish shrines once stood. Videos circulating on the internet showed the police stepping in to stop the believers. Palestinians protested against the Jewish prayers on mosque grounds. The mosque sits atop one of the most controversial holy sites in the Middle East. The Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount. It is the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. Only Muslim services are allowed on the mosque grounds, Jews are not allowed to pray there. Some did it anyway to commemorate Tisha B’Aw, the day of mourning for ancient temples. The two on the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque were already destroyed in ancient times.
The Foreign Office in Berlin was concerned about the development. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities,” a spokeswoman said, calling for an immediate end. “Israel, like any other state, can invoke the right to self-defense. Civilians must never be the target of attacks. It is now important to prevent further escalation and to maintain the greatest possible restraint and the proportionality required under international law.”
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