Israel and Hamas agreed on a truce on Thursday, two Palestinian officials said, an understanding that would end an escalation in fighting that has drawn mutual threats of war and many victims on the Palestinian side.
There was no formal comment from Israel, but an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity denied a ceasefire had been reached. Israel rarely acknowledges reaching any such agreement with Hamas, a group it designates as a terrorist organization and with which it has fought three wars in the past decade.
On Wednesday night and Thursday, Israeli aircraft struck more than 150 targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants fired rockets.
"Egyptian efforts managed to restore calm between Palestinian factions and Israel that will end the current escalation," a Palestinian official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said. "Palestinian factions will respect calm as long as Israel does," he told Reuters.
A second Palestinian official with knowledge of the talks said the cease-fire would begin at 8.45 p.m. GMT.
Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee, a smaller political movement in Gaza, said on his Facebook page: “Upon Egyptian and international efforts, a ceasefire between Palestinian resistance began conditional on the commitment of the occupation.”
Hours earlier, after the long-range Palestinian missile attack - the first of its kind since a 2014 war, Israeli air strikes had resumed after a short lull, flattening a multi-storey building that the Israeli military described as a Hamas headquarters.
A pregnant Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old child were killed in the Israeli attacks overnight on Wednesday, as was a Hamas militant, Gaza medical officials said. Hundreds of people took part in the funeral for the woman and child.
Residents said the building had served mainly as a cultural center. Local health officials said 18 bystanders were wounded by the blast. Hamas denied using the facility.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet late into the night on Thursday. A statement issued by his office before reports a truce had been reached said the forum instructed the military to "keep acting with force against the terrorists".
The U.S. State Department condemned the launching of missile attacks into Israel, without condemning Israeli air strikes. "We’ve seen reports that 180 or so rocket attacks have taken place, shot from Gaza into Israel, and we fully support Israel’s right to defend itself and to take actions to prevent provocations of that nature," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Egypt and the United Nations have been trying to mediate a comprehensive cease-fire to prevent an escalation in fighting and to ease the deep economic hardship in Gaza, a narrow strip of land that is home to 2 million Palestinians.
U.N. Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the United Nations had engaged with Egypt in an "unprecedented effort" to avoid serious conflict, but "the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people".