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20 Jul, 2018 22:16

Israel & Hamas agree to ceasefire in Gaza – Hamas spokesman

Israel and the Palestinian authority Hamas have agreed to restore calm after a day of armed confrontation, which saw one Israeli soldier killed and dozens of airstrikes launched by Israel, killing four Palestinians.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has attributed the armistice to the mediation of Egypt and the UN. "With Egyptian and United Nations efforts it has been agreed to return to the era of calm between (Israel) and Palestinian factions," he said, as cited by Reuters.

Israel did not immediately issue any official reaction to the news of the ceasefire

Earlier on Friday, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier died in violent clashes at the border with Gaza, the first to die on active duty on the Gaza front since 2014. The IDF jets launched "wide-scale" airstrikes at targets in the Gaza strip, killing a total of four Palestinians – one protester and three Hamas fighters – and injuring at least 120. Israeli tanks, meanwhile, hit 68 targets and destroyed about 60 "buildings and infrastructures" of the Hamas military force, the IDF said.

Friday's confrontation came as a deadline, set by Lieberman, ran out for Hamas to stop cross-border incendiary kite and balloon attacks against the IDF.

Alarmed by the escalation and the prospect of it leading to a new full-scale war akin to 2014's Operation Protective Edge, UN envoy to Gaza Nickolay Mladenov tried to defuse the situation, urging everyone to "step back from the brink... Right NOW!" After speaking with him, however, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reaffirmed his commitment to a wider-scale military operation in Gaza, "if Hamas continues with rocket launches."

After a reported diplomatic intervention from Egyptian security officials and a diplomat from another unnamed country, however, tensions appear to have cooled down, and, as of early Saturday, the IDF was not reporting any military activity in the area.