GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Islamic Jihad militant group early Thursday announced a cease-fire with Israel, ending two days of heavy fighting that left at least 32 Palestinians dead.
Spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 5:30 a.m. local time. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel.
Al-Berim said the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group's leaders and an easing of Israel's 12-year blockade of Gaza.
The fighting broke out early Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group.
The rare targeted killing by Israel sparked the heaviest fighting with Gaza militants since May. Islamic Jihad fired some 400 rockets toward Israel, while Israel responded with scores of airstrikes.
However, Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group, which is much larger and more powerful than Islamic Jihad, stayed out of the fighting, indicating it would be brief.
Palestinian officials reported 32 deaths, including a 7-year-old boy and six members of a single family.
The rocket fire crippled life across southern Israel as nonstop air-raid sirens canceled schools and forced people to remain indoors. Much of Gaza resembled a ghost town, with almost no vehicles on the roads except for ambulances evacuating wounded.
Israel rarely acknowledges deals with Gaza militant groups.
U.N. and Islamic Jihad officials were in touch Wednesday with Egyptian mediators, who typically broker deals to end fighting in Gaza, and Israel did not respond to the single rocket launch after the cease-fire announcement.
The fighting erupted after Israel killed a senior commander in the Islamic Jihad militant group, along with his wife, as they slept in their Gaza home. Israeli officials say Bahaa Abu el-Atta was responsible for numerous rocket attacks and was plotting a large-scale border infiltration.
Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, responded by launching dozens of rockets toward Israel, some reaching as far as Tel Aviv, prompting Israel to carry out scores of airstrikes.
Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel, has a much more lethal arsenal than Islamic Jihad. But as the governing authority in the territory, it also is more pragmatic and appears to have little desire for more fighting at a time when Gaza's economy is in tatters.
No Israeli deaths were reported, in part because of Israel's Iron Dome defense system, which the military said has a 90% success rate when deployed.
Israel's strikes against Islamic Jihad marked the latest manifestation of a spreading battle between Israel and Iranian proxies in the region.
Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel's northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and expertise.
Despite the disruption to daily life, there appeared to be widespread support in Israel for the targeting of Abu el-Atta. A successful military operation could bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he seeks to retain power.