Wary calm as Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ends fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza

A wary calm returned to Gaza and southern Israel on Tuesday after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire brought an end to hours of intense fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas.

Israeli jets struck targets throughout Gaza on Monday night, including the offices of the Islamist group’s leader, while Hamas and other Palestinian factions fired rockets at Israeli towns and cities. 

No fatalities were reported on either side although several people were injured in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. 

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The escalation was sparked by Hamas firing a rocket that wounded several members of a British-Israeli family on Monday morning. 

At around 10pm on Monday, Egyptian mediators managed to broker a ceasefire between the two sides, as they have done during several other flare-ups of violence in recent months. 

The ceasefire took several hours to take hold and airstrikes and rocket fire continued in the early hours of Tuesday. Millions of civilians on both sides spent the night in fear as the fighting continued. 

Palestinians sit with their belongings in a street outside their destroyed house after an Israeli missile targeted a nearby Hamas site, in Gaza CityCredit:
REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

However, by mid-morning the situation was tense but calm. Palestinian children went to school in Gaza as usual but school was cancelled for Israeli children in several districts in the country’s south. 

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, cut short a trip to Washington to return to Israel to manage the situation. Mr Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s defence minister, was due to arrive in Israel in the afternoon and hold meetings with security chiefs. 

“We have responded very, very forcefully,” Mr Netanyahu said before departing Washington. 

“Hamas needs to know that we will not hesitate to go in and take all necessary steps – regardless of anything, any date, other than Israel’s security needs.”

However, the negotiations have yielded few results and Hamas is believed to be trying to inject fresh urgency into the talks by firing rockets while at the same time avoiding a full-blown war.

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