Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire late Saturday night, trying to stop for five days. of intense fighting At least 33 Palestinians including 13 civilians were killed. Two people were killed in a rocket attack in Israel.
A last-minute burst of rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes saw the tenuous truce take effect shortly after 10 p.m., within minutes of an Egypt-announced deadline. Late Saturday, Israel reported additional incoming fire and said it was striking Gaza again. But calm seems to be quickly restored.
While a pacified Gaza appeared to bring a sense of relief to the more than 2 million people and tens of thousands of Israelis who have been mostly confined to bomb shelters in recent days, the deal did nothing to address the underlying problems that fueled the numerous rounds. Fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip has been ongoing for years.
Mohamed Abed/AFP via Getty Images
In Gaza, Islamic Jihad spokesman Tarek Selmi said Israel had agreed to end its policy of targeting the group’s leaders. “Any stupidity or murder by the occupiers will be answered and the Zionist enemy will bear the responsibility,” he said.
But in a statement thanking Egypt for its mediation efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Zachi Nanegbi, said that “peace will be answered” and that Israel “will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”
Tensions could quickly resume next week when Israel holds a controversial march through a main Palestinian street in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Still, as the cease-fire took hold, car horns in Gaza were replaced by the deafening whoosh of outgoing rockets and booming Israeli airstrikes. Streets deserted in recent days quickly thronged with people waving Palestinian flags and victory signs from speeding vehicles. Amidst the celebration, a fruit vendor used a loudspeaker, enthusiastically promoting his supply of bananas.
The latest violence erupted on Tuesday When Israeli airstrikes Killed three senior Islamic Jihad commanders. Israel said the airstrikes were in response to a barrage of rocket fire the previous week and that its attacks had been focused on Islamic Jihad targets. But Gaza residents said homes of people not involved in the fighting were also hit.
At least 10 civilians were killed in this initial attack, including women, young children and involved neighbors.
Over the past few days, Israel has carried out more airstrikes, killing other senior Islamic Jihad commanders and destroying their command centers and rocket-launching sites. But the airstrikes showed no sign of stopping the rocket fire, prompting Islamic Jihad to declare victory.
Israel reported more than 1,200 launches during the war, with some rockets reaching the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas. Israel said about a quarter of the rockets were mistakenly fired and landed in Gaza, while most of the rest were either intercepted or landed in the open. But the rockets killed an 80-year-old woman and a Palestinian laborer working inside Israel. A Palestinian human rights group said three people, including two children, were killed in Gaza after an errant rocket hit.
It was the latest in a long series of battles between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and there have been many minor flareups.
Saturday’s agreement did not address many of the causes of the recurring war, including Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza, large arms caches held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In the 1967 Middle East War, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Palestinians claim all three territories for a future state. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but Hamas subsequently occupied the territory and expelled forces loyal to the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of Gaza in what Israel says is a policy aimed at preventing Hamas from arming. Palestinian and international rights groups say the policy, which restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, amounts to collective punishment.
The Palestinian Authority, which governs the semi-autonomous parts of the West Bank, said Gaza’s main cargo crossing with Israel would open on Sunday. The Hamas government warned on Saturday that unless the crossing opens, Gaza’s only power plant will shut down, deepening the power crisis.
A more powerful Hamas praised Islamic Jihad’s strikes but stayed by, limiting the scope of the conflict during the latest round of fighting. As the de facto government is responsible for the anomalous conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip, Hamas has recently tried to keep a lid on its conflict with Israel. On the other hand, Islamic Jihad, a more ideological and volatile militant group involved in violence, has led the past few rounds of war with Israel.
In a reminder of the combustible situation in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military stormed the Balata refugee camp near the northern city of Nablus, setting off an arson attack. Two Palestinians were killed. In a separate incident near the northern city of Jenin, Israeli police said they shot dead a suspected Palestinian attacker who ran toward soldiers with a knife.
Israeli-Palestinian fighting has escalated in the West Bank under Israeli rule Right-wing governments in history. Since the beginning of the year, 111 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, at least half of them linked to militant groups, according to an Associated Press report. At that time, 20 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
The ceasefire may be further tested on Thursday when Israeli nationalists plan to hold their annual “Jerusalem Day” march through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The march, intended to celebrate Israel’s 1967 occupation of the Old City and its Jewish holy sites, is a frequent source of friction and helped spark the 2021 11-day war with Hamas.
On Saturday, Palestinians in Gaza rushed by Israeli warplanes to assess the damage and salvage what they could from four destroyed homes in a densely populated neighborhood. Residents denied the army’s claims that they had attacked Islamic Jihad targets.
“We don’t have a rocket launching pad. This is a residential area,” said Auni Obaid, next to the ruins of his three-story home in the central city of Deir al-Balah.
Neighboring relative Jehad Obaid’s house was also leveled.
He said, I am vomiting because of the dust. “This is extraordinary hate. They claim they don’t hurt children, but what we see is madness, destruction.”