ISRAEL and the militant Islamic Jihad group have reached a ceasefire to end the heaviest Gaza fighting in months that killed at least 34 Palestinians, including eight children, and paralysed parts of Israel.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Berim said the Egyptian-brokered deal came into effect at 5.30am yesterday. An Israeli military spokesman tweeted that the Gaza operation “is over”.

Some restrictions were lifted on residents of southern Israel and traffic returned to the streets of the Palestinian coastal territory.

Despite the ceasefire, Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into Israel hours later. Air raid sirens went off in several communities near the Gaza Strip.

Israel hailed the operation as a victory, defending its policy of targeting militants in their homes despite civilian deaths.

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MEANWHILE, an international team of investigators piecing together a criminal case over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine say evidence suggests links between Russia and separatists in the region were closer than previously believed.

The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses as it revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) rebel group in eastern Ukraine.

In June, the investigators announced that they had charged four people, including three Russians, with murder over their alleged roles in the downing of Flight MH17 in July 2014.

ELSEWHERE, the death toll from the wildfires raging across Australia’s most populous state has risen to four as authorities warned of worsening weather conditions to come.

A body was found late on Wednesday in a scorched forest near the town of Kempsey in north-east New South Wales, police said. He is suspected to be a 58-year-old man who lived in a nearby shed and had not been seen since last Friday when wildfires across the state killed three other people and destroyed at least 150 homes.

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FINALLY, a student has killed a fellow student and wounded three more in a shooting at a college in Russia, before taking his own life.

Officials said the 19-year-old gunman brought a hunting rifle to class in Blagoveshchensk near the border with China and opened fire on students.

While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks by students in recent years.

The college was evacuated and classes suspended. Two injured students underwent surgery in a local hospital, and one of them remains in a critical condition.

Police are currently investigating the attack.