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Gaza’s Hamas rulers claim ceasefire reached with Israel

It comes amid the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers said they have agreed to a ceasefire with Israel to end the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened “after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression”.

He said militant groups in Gaza will commit to the ceasefire as long as Israel does.

Israeli cabinet minister Naftali Bennett told Israel’s Army Radio no agreement had been reached yet.

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Flames of rockets fired by Palestinian militants are seen over the Gaza Strip (Hatem Moussa/AP)

The Israeli military struck dozens of militant sites in Gaza overnight as rocket fire continued towards southern Israeli communities into early Wednesday morning, setting off air raid sirens in the area throughout the night.

The military said it hit drone storage facilities, military compounds and rocket and munition workshops across the Gaza Strip.

The overnight Hamas rocket fire reached the city of Netivot for the first time since the 2014 war.

The border area has been tense in recent weeks as Palestinians have held mass protests aimed at lifting an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israeli fire has killed more than 110 Palestinians, most of them during the Hamas-led protests, which climaxed on May 14.

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Tensions have been high in the region (Hatem Moussa/AP)

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

The last war, in 2014, was especially devastating, with more than 2,000 Palestinians killed, including hundreds of civilians, and widespread damage inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure in 50 days of fighting.

Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side.

A crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed when Hamas took power, has meanwhile brought the local economy to a standstill.

Hamas initially billed the weekly border protests as a call to break through the fence and return to homes that were lost 70 years ago during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.

But the protests appear to be fuelled primarily by a desire to ease the blockade.

Gaza’s unemployment rate is edging towards 50% and the territory suffers from chronic power outages.

After Gaza militants fired some 30 mortars shells early on Tuesday, Israel responded fiercely, threatening to set off another round of confrontations.

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