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Uneasy calm in Gaza after Hamas-Israel deal

Deal comes after four Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed in latest violence near Gaza-Israel fence.


A brittle quiet has taken hold in the Gaza Strip as a deal between Hamas and Israel to restore calm in the besieged territory appears to be holding.

The deal, brokered by Egyptian and United Nations officials, was designed to end the Israeli onslaught on Hamas positions and other violence that resulted in the deaths of four Palestinians and one Israeli soldier on Friday. 

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum announced the deal early on Saturday morning, saying that it had been active from midnight local time on Friday.

"We reached [an agreement] to return to the previous state of calm between the [Israeli] occupation and the Palestinian factions," Barhoum said.

Israel confirmed the agreement later on Saturday, with the army said in a separate statement that communities near Gaza could return to normal activity, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. 

"At the end of an assessment by the southern command this morning it was decided to maintain a full civilian routine in the communities close to the Gaza Strip," Haaretz quoted the statement as saying. 

The deal came after Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in the Gaza strip on Friday.

Israeli soldiers fired live bullets and tear gas canisters towards Palestinian protesters gathered along the fence with Israel, killing 27-year-old Mohammad Sharif Badwan and wounding 120 others, according to health officials in Gaza. 

Hamas also said three of its members were killed earlier in the day after Israel launched large-scale attacks in the southern part of the enclave. Sixty Hamas targets were hit by Israeli forces on Friday night. 

Israeli forces said the attacks came after one of its soldiers, Staff Sergeant Aviv Levy, 20, was hit by Palestinian gunmen. They later announced the soldier had succumbed to his wounds, marking the first Israeli military fatality in the area since the 2014 Gaza war. 

Fragile agreement

READ MORE: Gaza protests: All the latest updates

While it appeared that relative calm had returned to the area on Saturday, Phyllis Bennis, a programme director at the US-based Institute for Policy Studies, said it was unlikely that any ceasefire agreement would hold.

"It is important that they use the word calm [in the announcement] and not the word peace," Bennis said.

"There has been no calm in Gaza for many, many decades," she said.

"If there is a ceasefire that holds briefly it will not hold for very long I'm afraid."

Despite the deal, Israeli forces targeted a Hamas position on Saturday morning after individuals crossed from Gaza into Israel, according to Haaretz.

Also on Saturday, a flaming balloon sent from Gaza started a fire at an Israeli farm near the fence.

Friday's violence comes after nearly four months of protests by Palestinians along the fence with Israel. 

Palestinians have been protesting every Friday since March 30, demanding their right to return to the homes and land their families were expelled from 70 years ago. 

Since the protests began, Israeli forces have killed more than 140 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded over 16,000 people, according to health officials in Gaza.

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