Israel and Hamas have agreed a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, starting on Thursday. Talks mediated by Egypt produced the truce, despite continuing attacks by both sides. At least six Palestinians died this morning in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, as Israeli forces attacked militants they claimed were involved in rocket attacks into Israel.
Hamas hopes a ceasefire will lead to a lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which restricts all movement of people, food and fuel into and out of the Strip. Israel tightened its control of border crossings a year ago, after fighting between rival Palestinian factions left Hamas in control of Gaza, and Fatah largely confined to the West Bank.
In pursuing the ceasefire, Hamas wants border crossings reopened, including the southern Rafah checkpoint with Egypt.
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also launched tentative moves towards a rapprochement with Hamas. He sent Fatah envoys from the West Bank to Gaza to explore the possibility of reconciliation. It is the first Fatah olive branch since elections in 2006, when Hamas ended its secular rival’s 40 years unchallenged leadership of Palestinian affairs. Hamas seized control of Gaza a year later.