Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip agreed to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire late Saturday, seeking to halt five days of intense fighting that killed 33 Palestinians, including at least 13 civilians. Two people in Israel were killed by rocket fire.
The tenuous cease-fire appeared to take effect just after 10 pm, with a last-minute burst of rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes stretching several minutes past the deadline announced by Egypt. Late Saturday, Israel reported additional incoming fire and said it was again striking in Gaza. But the calm appeared to be quickly restored.
Israel reported over 1,200 launches throughout the fighting, with some rockets reaching as far as the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas. Israel said about a quarter of the rockets were misfired and landed in Gaza, while most of the rest were either intercepted or landed in open areas. But an 80-year-old woman and a Palestinian labourer who was working inside Israel were killed by rocket fire. A Palestinian human rights group said three people, including two children, were killed in Gaza by errant rockets.
It was the latest in a long series of battles between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the seaside territory in 2007. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars, and there have been numerous smaller flare ups as well.
Saturday's deal did not address many of the causes of the repeated fighting, including Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza, the large arsenals of weapons possessed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority, which governs semi-autonomous parts of the West Bank, said Gaza's main cargo crossing with Israel would open Sunday. Hamas' government warned on Saturday that if the crossing doesn't open, the lone power plant in Gaza will stop, further deepening a power crisis.
The more powerful Hamas has praised Islamic Jihad's strikes but remained on the sidelines during the latest round of fighting, limiting the scope of the conflict. As the de facto government held responsible for the abysmal conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip, Hamas has recently tried to keep a lid on its conflict with Israel. Islamic Jihad, on the other hand, a more ideological and unruly militant group wedded to violence, has taken the lead in the past few rounds of fighting with Israel.
In a reminder of the combustible situation in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military raided the Balata refugee camp near the northern city of Nablus, sparking a firefight that killed two Palestinians. In a separate incident near the northern city of Jenin, Israeli police said they shot and killed a suspected Palestinian assailant who ran toward soldiers wielding a knife.
Israeli-Palestinian fighting has surged in the West Bank under Israel's most right-wing government in history. Since the start of the year, 111 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, at least half of them affiliated with militant groups, according to a tally by The Associated Press. In that time, 20 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
The truce could be further tested on Thursday when Israeli nationalists plan their annual "Jerusalem Day" march through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. The march, meant to celebrate Israel's capture of the Old City and its Jewish holy sites in 1967, is a frequent source of friction and helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas in 2021.