The Latest: Hamas says Gaza cease-fire reached
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on developments in Israel and the Palestinian territories (all times local):
The Hamas militant group says a cease-fire has been reached to end the latest round of fighting with Israel.
Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel reported late Thursday that a cease-fire has taken hold “on the basis of mutual calm.” It said the deal was mediated by Egypt and other regional players.
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.
He said the agreement merely ends the latest two-day burst of violence between Israel and Hamas.
He said Egypt would continue efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire. Hamas wants an end to a decade-long Israeli-Egyptian border blockade as a condition for any long-term deal.
There was no immediate Israeli comment.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet has instructed the military to take “strong action” against Gaza militants.
The Cabinet issued a brief statement late Thursday after a four-hour discussion on the latest outbreak of fighting with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
It gave no further details.
Israel is urging Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the U.N. Security Council to condemn Hamas militants for what he called “the unprovoked terrorist attack” on southern Israel in the last 24 hours.
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said in excerpts from a letter to the U.N. chief and council and distributed to news organizations by Israel’s U.N. mission on Thursday that Hamas was solely responsible for launching more than 180 rockets from Gaza that injured civilians and damaged factories and homes.
“Alarms have once again shattered the hope of the children of southern Israel for a quiet summer vacation — no country would tolerate such a situation,” Danon wrote.
He said the international community “must condemn Hamas and place the responsibility for this unacceptable onslaught on the terrorist organization.”
Danon added that “Israel will continue to take all necessary measures to prevent harm to civilians and to protect its sovereignty.”
Israeli media are reporting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened his Security Cabinet to discuss the latest escalation of violence with Gaza militants.
Ahead of Thursday evening’s meeting, Netanyahu and his defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, convened with top military officials at the army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.
An Israeli official said Netanyahu had instructed the army to prepare for “every possibility.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a closed security meeting.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says Gaza militants have fired about 150 rockets at Israel in the past 24 hours, while Israel has struck some 140 Hamas targets in Gaza.
He called the rocket attack on Beersheba, which required a more powerful, longer-range rocket, an escalation.
Palestinian officials say Israeli warplanes have attacked a cultural center in Gaza City.
The Palestinian Health Ministry says seven bystanders were wounded in Thursday evening’s airstrike in the Shati refugee camp.
Witnesses said the air force fired several warning missile at the building before the actual strike — a tactic that Israel uses to get people to evacuate buildings that are about to be targeted.
It was not immediately clear why Israel struck the building.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military says air raid sirens have sounded again in southern Israel, indicating incoming rocket fire.
Earlier on Thursday, a Palestinian rocket landed in an open area near the southern city of Beersheba.
The United Nations’ Mideast envoy is expressing his concern about the latest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.
Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special envoy who is involved in Egyptian efforts to broker a truce, said in a statement on Thursday that he’s “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel” the day before.
Mladenov’s statement came amid the latest surge in violence this week, in which Hamas fired over 150 rockets at Israel. In turn, Israel carried out over 140 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
Mladenov says that for months, he has warned the “humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risks a devastating conflict that nobody wants.”
He added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”
Israeli warplanes hit struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and three people were reported killed there, while Palestinian militants from the territory fired scores of rockets into Israel in a fierce burst of violence overnight.
The flare-up comes as Egypt is trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between the two sides. At least three Palestinians died — a pregnant woman, her 1-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant. That’s according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
On the Israeli side, at least seven people were wounded.
It was not clear if the escalation, the latest in a series of intense exchanges of fire in recent months, would derail the indirect negotiations between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers.