Hamas announces ceasefire in Gaza

A ceasefire announced by Hamas largely held on Saturday after a wave of deadly air strikes across the Gaza Strip sparked by the death of an Israeli soldier shot near the border.

The soldier’s death was the first linked to Gaza violence since a 2014 war and raised fears that Israel’s response could spiral into full-out war.

But Hamas’s decision to accept a ceasefire and not further retaliate reduced those fears for now.

As has been the case with previous such truces, Israel did not confirm the deal announced by Gaza’s Islamist rulers that went into effect around midnight on Friday.

There was relative calm on Saturday except for one incident, with the Israeli Army saying a tank struck a Hamas observation point east of Gaza City in retaliation for an attempted border infiltration in northern Gaza.

There were no reports of injuries in that strike and there was no major Israeli bombing campaign overnight or mortar fire from the Palestinian enclave toward Israel.

State of calm

“With Egyptian and UN efforts, we reached (an agreement) to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement early on Saturday.

Israel’s Army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to confirm a truce was reached.

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