Islamic Jihad fighters yesterday agreed terms of an Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel, intended to end three days of intense conflict that has left at least 43 Palestinians dead.
The deal raises hopes of an imminent cessation of the worst fighting in Gaza since a 11-day war last year devastated the impoverished Palestinian coastal territory.
“A short while ago the wording of the Egyptian truce agreement was reached,” senior Islamic Jihad member Mohamed al-Hindi said in a statement.
Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza.
Gaza’s health ministry yesterday evening raised the death toll to 43 including 15 children, with more than 300 people wounded in the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Hamas.
Islamic Jihad’s Hindi said the deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work towards the release of two prisoners, (Bassem) al-Saadi and (Khalil) Awawdeh”.
Saadi, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad’s political wing, was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, while Awawdeh is also in Israeli detention.
Earlier in the day, an Egyptian security source said that Israel “has accepted” a ceasefire.
Buildings in Gaza have been reduced to rubble.
Nour Abu Sultan, who lives west of Gaza, said earlier yesterday that she was “awaiting the declaration of the ceasefire on tenterhooks”.
“We haven’t slept for days (due to) heat and shelling and rockets, the sound of aircrafts hovering above us...is terrifying,” the 29-year-old said.
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas but often acts independently.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Abu Salmiya, director general of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said medics were treating wounded people in a “very bad condition”, warning of dire shortages of drugs and fuel to run power generators.
“Every minute we receive injured people,” he said earlier yesterday.
“There is a crisis in medicine, a crisis in drugs, a crisis in electricity,” said Salmiya.
Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Saturday due to a lack of fuel, four days after Israel closed its crossings with the territory citing security concerns.
“The situation is very bad,” said Salmiya. “We need urgently to open the borders to bring in drugs, (fuel for) electricity.”
Diesel for the power plant is usually trucked in from Egypt or Israel, which has maintained a blockade of the enclave since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.
The depleting electricity supply will see “a cessation of health services” tomorrow afternoon, as power generators are running out of fuel, Gaza’s health ministry projected.
Potentially life-saving facilities such as operating rooms and ventilators in hospitals need power to continue running.
There are also concerns that the fuel shortage across the Palestinian territory could affect ambulances, said the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA.
The UN agency warned on Saturday that without a boost to the electricity supply, Gaza will soon see “the reduction of water supply from the water wells and desalination plants”.
Ahad Ferwana, a Gaza resident, said people become sick when the water supply is interrupted.
The power cuts “affect all areas of life in Gaza Strip,” he said.
“It disrupts people’s lives especially under the intense heat that hits the region,” he said.
“That forces people to leave their homes, which puts their lives at risk because of the continued bombardment.”
A Palestinian boy looks on in fear as his family house is damaged amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in the northern Gaza Strip, yesterday.