Israel-Gaza: Uneasy truce holds after flare-up leaves scores dead

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An uneasy truce between Palestinian militants and Israel held Monday morning after days of violence which has left scores of Palestinians dead in the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire, beginning Sunday evening at 11:30 p.m. local time, appeared to be holding hours later, with both the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Isreal reporting no major breach of the agreement.

Minutes before the truce, which was brokered by Egypt, the Israeli army struck targets in Gaza "in response to rockets fired" towards the southern Israeli territory it claimed.

This flare-up between Israel and Palestine is the worst violence seen in over a year. At least 44 Palestinians, including children, have been killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

In a statement released on Sunday evening, Joe Biden welcomed the ceasefire, while thanking Cario for its role in bringing the two sides to the negotiating table.

The US president also called for an investigation into the civilian casualties, describing them as a "tragedy".

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid's office confirmed the ceasefire, having said it "reserves the right to respond firmly" to attacks from a militant group.

According to Gaza's health ministry, 44 Palestinians -- including 15 children and four women -- and more than 300 people have been wounded since the beginning of the Israeli military operation on Friday.

The ministry blamed "Israeli aggression" for their deaths.

Four of these children were killed Sunday in Israeli strikes on the strip, despite reports of a possible truce, said the ministry, which is led by the enclave's Palestinian Hamas movement.

Israel's military said it began its attacks on sites in the Gaza Strip in response to threats from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, following tensions over its arrest of a senior member of the group in the West Bank.

The UN envoy for the Middle East Tor Wennesland welcomed the truce agreement on Twitter but said "that the situation remains very fragile".

"I urge all parties to respect the ceasefire," he added.

Worst violence since 2021 war

Israel and Gaza fighters have been exchanging fire across the border since Friday, in the worst violence between Israel and Palestinian militants since the end of an 11-day war in 2021.

Early on Sunday, Palestinian militants fired rockets toward Jerusalem, causing no casualties but signalling new reach and resolve, as Israel pressed air strikes in the Gaza Strip.

The Islamic Jihad faction said it targeted Jerusalem in retaliation for Israel's killing overnight of its commander in southern Gaza. He was the second leader to be slain amid an escalating cross-border conflict.

Tens of thousands of Israelis were sent seeking out shelters as rockets were fired from Gaza. Sirens sounded and explosions were heard on the western outskirts of Jerusalem early on Sunday.

Video filmed by the Associated Press showed at least three rockets blasting in the air. According to Israeli media, two rockets were intercepted.

Fighters from the Palestinian militant group confirmed that Khaled Mansour, who led the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad's operations in the southern Gaza Strip, was killed late on Saturday. It came a day after another Israeli strike killed the militants' commander in the north.

Thousands of mourners took part Sunday in his funeral, along with those of six other people killed in the same airstrikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Flare-up worries world powers

The Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad confirmed on Sunday that the airstrike in Rafah City killed Mansour and two fellow militants.

The militants said the strike also killed civilians as it flattened several homes.

The Israeli government also said its forces killed Mansour in the strike, which it described as a joint operation between its military and intelligence agencies approved by the country's political leaders. It described the action as the preemption of an Islamic Jihad attack.

The flare-up has worried world powers and prompted truce mediation by Egypt. It has been contained in part by the fact that Hamas, the governing Islamist group in the impoverished and blockaded Gaza Strip, has held fire.

In another potential flashpoint, Jews commemorating two ancient temples visited a major Jerusalem mosque compound that they revere as a vestige of those shrines.

The site where those shrines once stood is now the Al Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site and an icon of Palestinian nationalism, in Jerusalem's walled Old City.

Scores of Jews toured the compound under police guard on Sunday. The scheduled visits are an affront to Palestinians.