Gaza truce largely holding after flare-up

Nidal al-Mughrabi
Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza have agreed to a ceasefire with Israel

A ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militant groups appears to be holding, ending the most intensive flare-up in violence around the Palestinian enclave since a 2014 war.

In a day of fierce fighting on Saturday, Israel carried out dozens of air strikes in Gaza, killing two people, and Gaza militants fired more than 100 rockets across the border, wounding three people in a southern Israeli town.

The ceasefire, the second between the two sides to be brokered by Egypt this year after a previous day-long flare-up in May, came into force late on Saturday.

The Israeli military said that in the initial hours of the ceasefire militants fired two rockets towards Israel, of which one was intercepted by its Iron Dome system. There were no reports of an Israeli counter-attack in Gaza.

Some hours afterwards, militants fired another two mortar bombs towards Israel, which responded by striking the mortar tube used in the attack, the military said.

Weekly clashes at the Israel-Gaza border have kept tensions at a high for months. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during protests at the frontier held every week since March, including a teenager on Friday, Gaza medics said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday's attacks targeted Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists, whom Israel accuses of stoking violence with the "Great March of Return" demonstrations, which have included attempts to breach Israel's border fence.

Netanyahu has faced public pressure to take action against the launching of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza that have burned crops and scrubland in southern Israel.

Israel's Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said the air strikes were meant to put an end to such attacks but should not be seen as the start of a military campaign against the Palestinian territory of 2 million, devastated by seven weeks of war with Israel four years ago.