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Calm returns after two-day flare-up in and around Gaza

2 min

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Calm returned Tuesday after a two-day flare-up in and around Gaza as a truce between Israel and Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad appeared to take hold after initial jitters.

The Israeli military reported no rocket fire from the territory during the morning and AFP correspondents in Gaza reported no Israeli strikes.

The main border crossing between the Palestinian enclave and Israel was due to reopen at 9 am (0700 GMT) to allow medical cases and foreign nationals to leave, Palestinian officials said.

Islamic Jihad announced the truce on Monday evening but later briefly backtracked, accusing Israel of breaching it.

A rocket or mortar round fired from Gaza hit open ground in Israel shortly before midnight Monday, a spokeswoman for Shaar Hanegev regional council said.

Islamic Jihad is the second largest militant group in Gaza after dominant Islamist movement Hamas.

As with other Gaza truces, there was no official Israeli confirmation and the army ordered the parents of some 65,000 pupils in communities near the Gaza border to keep their children home for a second day.

Islamic Jihad fired more than 50 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel after the army killed one of its fighters on Sunday morning.

Many were intercepted by Israeli air defences and there were no reports of casualties. One rocket hit a playground but it was empty at the time.

Israeli fighter jets and helicopters responded with strikes on Islamic Jihad targets across Gaza, as well as in neighbouring Syria.

Sunday's fighting was the most intense between Israel and Islamic Jihad since November, when Israeli air strikes killed senior commanders from the group.

That three-day flare-up saw 35 Palestinians killed and more than 100 wounded, according to official figures.

There were no Israeli deaths despite hundreds of rockets being fired from Gaza.

Islamic Jihad did not accept a wider truce Hamas agreed with Israel in late 2018 and renewed after successive flare-ups last year.

Under the truce, Israel has allowed Hamas ally Qatar to provide fuel for Gaza's sole power station and million of dollars for cash payouts to the needy, among other relaxations of its more than decade-old blockade in exchange for a let-up in the violence.

Hamas and Israel last fought a full-scale war in 2014, but smaller flare-ups have been relatively common.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is battling for re-election on March 2 in the shadow of an impending corruption trial, threatened an "extensive campaign" to end the rocket fire.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008, most recently in 2014.

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