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Gaza, Israel Reach Ceasefire Agreement

Palestinian officials say a ceasefire agreement has been reached with Israel to end a surge of violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel that has led to the deaths of at least 25 Palestinians and four Israelis. 

israeli soldiers 1
Israeli soldiers

Gaza officials confirmed to Al Jazeera that a deal was reached at 1:30 GMT, and no Israeli air raids on the Palestinian territory have been reported since the deal came into effect. 

The Home Front Command instructed residents of the south to return to their routines. The Israeli Transportation Ministry announced that all public bus routes in the south would return to full and normal operation.

The railway line between the cities of Ashkelon and Beersheba was also set to resume later in the morning. An Islamic Jihad official, on condition of anonymity, said the truce agreement was based on Israel easing its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Among the steps, he said, were the easing of limits on the fishing zone to 12 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation. An Egyptian official also confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity.

The flare-up was the most serious clash between the two sides since a spate of fighting in November. Rocket sirens in southern Israel, which had gone off continuously over the weekend, sending residents running for cover. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered massive strikes on the Gaza Strip after a two-day escalation in which Israeli warplanes and gunboats targeted Gaza as fighters in the besieged enclave fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel.

A 34-year-old Hamas commander was in what the Israeli military described as a targeted strike. An army statement accused Hamad al-Khodori of transferring large sums of money  from Iran to armed factions in Gaza.

Other Palestinian victims included two pregnant women and two infants. In Beit Lahiya, a town in the northern Gaza Strip, an Israeli air raid hit a residential building, killing a four-month-old baby and her father. A 12-year-old boy, Abdelrahman Abu al-Jadyan, was also killed in the same attack.

The bodies of his parents, Talal and Raghda, were recovered under the rubble. bringing the death toll in the Gaza Strip to 25 killed.

 In the Israeli city of Ashkelon, a 58-year-old Israeli man was killed after being struck by shrapnel from a rocket attack. Two other Israelis, critically wounded in a separate rocket attack on a factory  later died.

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