Gaza ceasefire signalled as IDF lifts restrictions for southern towns
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Gaza ceasefire signalled as IDF lifts restrictions for southern towns

No official ceasefire announcement made from either side but fighting over past two days halts in early hours of Monday morning

People watch the aftermath of a rocket fired from Gaza after it hit in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod, Monday, May 6, 2019.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
People watch the aftermath of a rocket fired from Gaza after it hit in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod, Monday, May 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Israeli army lifted protective restrictions on residents in southern Israel on Monday, while the Hamas terror group’s radio station in the Gaza Strip reported a ceasefire, signalling a deal had been reached to end the bloodiest fighting between the two sides since a 2014 war.

There was no official ceasefire announcement from either side, but the intense fighting over the past two days appeared to come to a sudden halt in the early hours.

The Israeli military announced its decision, saying: “As of 7am, all protective restrictions in the home front will be lifted.”

Schools and roads had been closed, and residents had been encouraged to remain indoors and near bomb shelters as intense rocket fire pounded the area.

In Gaza, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa radio station had a short item saying a ceasefire had been reached. However, neither the strip’s Hamas rulers nor the smaller Islamic Jihad terror group that is active in Gaza issued any formal announcement.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars and numerous smaller battles since the Islamic terror group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

In the latest fighting, which erupted over the weekend, Palestinian terror fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, while the Israeli military responded with air strikes on dozens of targets inside Gaza.

Palestinian medical officials reported 23 deaths, including at least nine terror as well as two pregnant women and two babies.

Four Israelis were also killed by incoming fire, the first Israeli fatalities from rocket fire since the 50-day war in 2014.

Egyptian mediators had been working with the United Nations to broker a ceasefire. Under past Egyptian-brokered deals, Israel has agreed to ease a crippling blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt to rocket fire.

The latest fighting broke out after Palestinian terror accused Israel of not honouring an earlier ceasefire deal from March.

The terms of the latest deal were not immediately known, but recent ceasefires have been short-lived.

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