Israeli soldier killed along with four Palestinians in violent border demonstrations

Smoke rises from an Israeli strike in the east of Gaza City

Smoke rises from an Israeli strike in the east of Gaza City

The ceasefire announced by Hamas at midnight appeared to be holding on Saturday morning, following an uptick in violence after Palestinian snipers shot and killed an IDF soldier on the Gaza border on Friday, sparking widespread Israeli strikes on Hamas targets across Gaza.

"With Egyptian and United Nations efforts it has been agreed to return to the era of calm between (Israel) and Palestinian factions", he said, as cited by Reuters.

Four Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli forces during the weekly protest on Friday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The soldier was the first member of Israel's army to be killed on the Gaza front since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, a military spokesman said. It later said "fighter jets commenced a wide-scale attack against Hamas military targets throughout the Gaza Strip". The military wing of Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, said three of its fighters were killed in strikes.

Israelis living close to the Gaza border were told to stay close to bomb shelters, and not to attend synagogues for Friday evening prayers in larger numbers than could be accommodated in protected rooms if Gaza terror groups were to launch rocket attacks.

At least four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in a fresh round of attacks on the besieged enclave.

"Hamas chose to escalate the security situation - and will bear the consequences for its actions", the IDF said in a statement.

Explosion is seen following an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip.

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Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the demonstrations to provide cover for militants' cross-border attacks, something Hamas denies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with military brass Friday night to assess the developments, media reported.

The Israeli army said they struck 60 Hamas sites including weapon manufacturing sites, a drone warehouse and a military operations room.

Israel's army declined to comment on the reported ceasefire, but a spokeswoman said there was no known military activity in the area.

On Friday, Hamas vowed to continue its protests and the launching of incendiary devices towards Israel.

Khalil al-Hayya, a top Hamas leader, said "the protests will remain, flaming and existing, and its tools will multiply and diversify, including kites, until our goals are achieved".

The firm response comes months after IDF forces clashed with Hamas-backed militants in Gaza, killing dozens as they attempted to enter Israel illegally.

The soldier's murder was what prompted Israel to launch numerous airstrikes against Hamas, which are still ongoing.

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