Hamas: Deal reached with Israel to restore calm in Gaza

Hamas: Deal reached with Israel to restore calm in Gaza

The strikes took place after Israel Defense Forces soldiers came under fire in a "severe shooting attack" Friday afternoon, the Israeli military said.

Palestine's Health Ministry reported earlier that four Palestinians were killed Friday by Israeli forces in two separate incidents near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

The stepped up campaign followed "an event of the sort we can not tolerate", said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, referring to the soldier's death.

Israeli artillery units shelled several positions allegedly associated with Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Israel maintains many of those it has killed were Hamas militants and says its security concerns necessitate its blockade of Gaza.

For nearly four months, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been holding nearly daily demonstrations called "The Great March of Return" near the Gaza-Israel border.

In recent weeks, Palestinians have shifted their focus to sending to burning kites and helium balloons over the Israeli border fence and into the farmland beyond.

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At least four Palestinians were killed in later Israeli strikes, according to Palestinian medical officials.

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.

Israel did not confirm the deal announced by Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, which went into effect around midnight Friday. Militants also fired three rockets from Gaza into Israel on Friday, Israel's military said, including two that were intercepted by the country's Iron Dome system.

The UN's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, wrote on Twitter: "Everyone in Gaza needs to step back from the brink".

Palestinians are protesting to demand the right to return to homes and villages they fled or were driven from during the conflict surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to protect its citizens from weapons smuggling.

They are among more than 135, mostly unarmed, Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since border protests began at the end of March. It later said "fighter jets commenced a wide-scale attack against Hamas military targets throughout the Gaza Strip".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, arrived at military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday night for emergency meetings with top officials, a highly unusual event for the start of Sabbath.

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