Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds, Egyptian mediators shuttle between the two sides

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip held on Saturday as Egyptian mediators pressed on with talks with the two sides on securing longer-term calm, officials said.

The ceasefire began before dawn on Friday, and Palestinians and Israelis are now assessing the damage from 11 days of hostilities in which Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes and militants fired barrages of rockets at Israel.

Palestinian officials put the reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars and medical officials said 248 people had been killed in Gaza. The devastation has raised concerns about the humanitarian situation in the densely populated enclave.

Economists said the fighting could curb Israel’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and medics said Palestinian attacks killed 13 people in Israel, where the rocket attacks caused panic in some communities.

A source familiar with planning said U.S. Secretary of State would visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday, hoping to build on the ceasefire mediated by Egypt with U.S. support.

Egypt sent a delegation to Israel on Friday to discuss ways of firming up the ceasefire, including with aid for Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas officials told Reuters.

The delegates have since been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, with talks continuing on Saturday, the officials said.

Despite confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a Jerusalem holy site on Friday, there were no reports of Hamas rocket launches from Gaza or Israeli military strikes on the enclave as of Saturday morning.

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