Israel and Palestinian group declare Gaza truce

— 44 Palestinians, including children, have so far been killed: officials

GAZA/JERUSALEM: Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group declared a truce late on Sunday, raising hopes of an end to the most critical flare-up on the Gaza frontier in more than a year.

Israeli forces pounded Palestinian targets through the weekend, triggering rocket attacks against its cities, which largely tapered off by the time the truce came into effect at 23:30 (20:30 GMT).

It was announced in separate statements by Islamic Jihad and then Israel, who both thanked Egypt for mediating the ceasefire.

The three-day clashes echoed preludes to previous Gaza wars, though they were relatively contained as Hamas, the governing group in the Gaza Strip and a more powerful force than Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, had so far stayed out.

Gaza officials said 44 Palestinians, almost half of them civilians and including children, had so far been killed.

Israel launched what it called pre-emptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack meant to avenge the arrest of a leader of the group, Bassam al-Saadi, in the occupied West Bank.

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