JERUSALEM: Israel has agreed to halt a massive aerial campaign on the Gaza Strip during a visit Friday by Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil provided militants also hold their fire, an Israeli official said.
“Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has agreed to an Egyptian request to cease fire during the visit to Gaza this morning by the Egyptian prime minister, a visit that is supposed to last some three hours,” the senior official told AFP.
“In our response forwarded to the Egyptians, Israel has said that the IDF (Israeli military) will cease fire on the condition that during that period there won't be hostile fire from Gaza into Israel.”
Officials in Gaza said Qandil was due to cross into Gaza at around 10:00 am and meet with top officials in the ruling Islamist Hamas movement on a brief solidarity visit.
The premier will be accompanied by a number of aides to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, as well as by Health Minister Mohamed Mustafa Hamed, Cairo said on Thursday after confirming the surprise visit.
Ahead of the announcement, Israeli warplanes carried out multiple new air strikes on the Palestinian territory, including several hits on Gaza City early Friday, the third day of an intensive campaign which the military has said is aimed at stamping out rocket fire on southern Israel.
“There have been 130 strikes overnight until now,” Hamas interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said, as AFP correspondents in Gaza City reported multiple raids.
Hamas emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya said the death toll now stood at 19 Palestinians, several of them children, with a further 235 people injured.
The Israeli army said it had carried out 466 air strikes since it launched “Operation Pillar of Defence” on Wednesday afternoon with the targeted killing of Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari.
The army confirmed that “strikes are continuing,” adding that 11 Palestinian rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israel overnight.
The military said a total of 280 rockets have been fired at the Jewish state from Gaza since Wednesday afternoon, including two that landed near Tel Aviv. Three Israelis were killed on Thursday.
The Israeli air defence system Iron Dome intercepted 131 of those, the military said.