Middle East

Gaza militants Islamic Jihad say truce renewed

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Media captionQuentin Sommerville: "It was the heaviest barrage that has been seen in about two years"

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad says a truce with Israel has been restored, after a day of multiple cross-border rocket and air strikes.

It says Egypt helped broker a deal to resume a 2012 ceasefire agreement. Israel has not confirmed this.

On Thursday, at least two more rockets struck Israel, after which Israel attacked seven "terror sites" in Gaza. Three Palestinians were reported hurt.

The barrage of rockets has been the heaviest since the 2012 conflict.

There have been no Israeli casualties. Reuters news agency quoted witnesses as saying the three Palestinians were wounded, without identifying whether they were civilians or militants.

Islamic Jihad's leader in Gaza, Khaled al-Batch, said the renewed truce would last as long as Israel abided by it.

"After the Egyptian brothers initiated contacts with us in the past few hours, we agreed to restore the calm," the Associated Press (AP) news agency quoted him as saying.

"As long as the occupation [Israel] honours the calm, we will honour the calm and instructions are being given right now to al-Quds Brigades, our military wing, about this understanding."

Moments earlier, Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said Israel would "continue... to eliminate threats as they develop".

He said: "This is our obligation and responsibility to those exposed to Gaza terrorism."

Sirens in Israel

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said about 65 rockets had hit Israel since Wednesday, five in populated areas. Israel has carried out 36 air strikes in that time, hitting bases of Gaza's Hamas government and the al-Quds Brigades across the territory.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The round of violence was the heaviest for months

Islamic Jihad said it fired the rockets in retaliation for Tuesday's killing of three of its militants in an earlier Israeli air strike. Israel says it attacked the militants immediately after they launched mortars at Israeli soldiers.

Air raid sirens went off in the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon on Thursday when the latest volley of rockets was fired.

The rockets hit open areas, but landed deeper in Israel than on the previous day, AP reported.

On Wednesday Israel carried out 29 air strikes. The BBC's Rushdi Abu Alouf in Gaza City said the explosions could be heard across the territory.

Hamas did not take part in firing the rockets but accused Israel of provoking the attacks by Islamic Jihad.

AP quoted Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri as saying Israel bore "full responsibility" for the escalation.

Israel said it holds Hamas responsible for any attacks from Gaza.

The president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and a rival of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the violence.

Speaking during a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday, Mr Abbas said: "Yesterday rockets were launched from Gaza and Israeli responded.

"We condemn the aggression and all forms of military escalation, including the rockets."