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Tense calm, cease-fire follows another Hamas-Israel flare-up

10 August 2018

It was the third major escalation since July and came despite attempts by United Nations officials and Egypt to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip.

Israeli and Hamas officials both threatened a further intensification of hostilities.

The army's rhetoric has been echoed by Israeli politicians and government bodies over the course of Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Israel was "defending itself from from Hamas' aggression".

Over the past four months, 163 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 protesters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a local rights group.

A senior Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the deal would formally go into effect at midnight (5 p.m. Thursday ET), according to the AP.

A second Palestinian official with knowledge of the talks said the cease-fire would begin at 2045 GMT.

Israel just launched multiple airstrikes destroying al-Meshal Cultural center in Gaza - a public area that hosts cultural festivals and art events. Nevertheless, there is no indication that Israel's "waves of attacks against targets across Gaza" was in response to the scores of Palestinian rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians. In this week's fighting, the Palestinian health ministry said three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her one-year-old daughter, and a Hamas militant, were killed in separate airstrikes. "The rocket hit their house and smashed it, you can see the damage", said Abdullah Khammash, 31 and a cousin of the woman and child killed.

Nearly 200 rockets and mortar shells were fired from within Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian movements at towns and villages in Israel, provoking a similar number of attacks by the Israeli Air Force.

Rocket warning sirens sounded nearly non-stop in the southern Israeli towns and border communities near Gaza from sunset on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Hamas deputy chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya said efforts to reach a truce with the Israeli regime were at "an advanced stage". Palestinian sources said 18 people were injured in the strike.

Israel responded by hitting the multi-storey building, first with small bombs apparently so that people would evacuate, then flattening it with a huge blast that shook the city and raised clouds of dust and smoke. Local health officials said 18 bystanders were wounded outside of the building by the blast. Hamas denied using the facility.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet late into the night on Thursday.

The Israeli military said it only struck military targets, including production sites for weapons and tunnels.

The U.S. State Department condemned the launching of missile attacks into Israel.

Israel launched more than 140 attacks after about 150 rockets were fired from the coastal enclave.

As Israel continues to attack Gaza and strangle its economy with measures that have been denounced as "genocidal policies of collective punishment", the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) noted that "Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of a full-blown humanitarian crisis due to Israel's 10-year siege".

The protests are partly meant to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. Israel in turn needs to send the message that there's a "price to pay", he said.

Yuval Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Israel Radio earlier that Israel was "not eager for war" but would make no concessions to Hamas.

"If the current escalation, however, is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people", he said in a statement.

Tense calm, cease-fire follows another Hamas-Israel flare-up