The cease-fire deal contained a promise that Egypt would work for the release of 2 senior Islamic Jihad detainees held by Israel
GAZA CITY, Aug 8: A fragile cease-fire deal to end nearly three days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza held into Monday morning – a sign the latest round of violence may have abated.
The flare-up was the worst fighting between Israel and Gaza militant groups since Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers fought an 11-day war last year, adding to the destruction and misery that have plagued blockaded Gaza for years.
Since Friday, Israeli aircraft had pummelled targets in Gaza while the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Over three days of fighting, 44 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Islamic Jihad said 12 of those killed were militants and Israel said some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.
Israel on Monday said it was partially reopening crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs and would fully open them if calm was maintained. Fuel trucks were seen entering a cargo crossing for the first time since crossings with the strip were closed last week, prompting a fuel shortage that ground Gaza’s lone power plant to a halt on Saturday. The plant was set to resume full operations later Monday. Gaza suffers from a chronic power crisis.
Life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis was disrupted during the violence. Security precautions imposed in recent days on residents of southern Israel were being gradually lifted Monday, the military said.
Both sides boasted of their successes. Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Sunday, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said the militant group remained strong, despite losing two of its leaders. “This is a victory for Islamic Jihad,” he said.
Despite that claim, the group undoubtedly sustained a blow during Israel’s fierce offensive. Beyond losing the two leaders, it reduced its arsenal by firing hundreds of rockets without striking a single Israeli, thanks to Israel’s missile defense system that shot most of them down. Its own rockets may have killed several Gazans, according to Israel.
The cease-fire deal contained a promise that Egypt would work for the release of two senior Islamic Jihad detainees held by Israel, but there were no guarantees this would happen. The weekend fighting was also bound to complicate Islamic Jihad’s relations with Hamas.
A senior Israeli diplomatic official said the offensive had taken Islamic Jihad’s capabilities back “decades.” The flareup was “a successful counterterrorism operation” because Israel achieved its goals in a brief period of time he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation with the media.
The violence had threatened to spiral into another all-out war but ended up being contained because Gaza’s ruling Hamas group stayed on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents, that bolster its control over the coastal strip.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group overran the territory in 2007.
Israel launched its operation with a strike on Friday on a leader of the Islamic Jihad, saying there were “concrete threats” of an anti-tank missile attack against Israelis in response to the arrest last week of another senior Islamic Jihad member in the West Bank. That arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to round up suspects following a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israel.
It killed another Islamic Jihad leader in a strike on Saturday.
Israel said some of the deaths during this round were caused by errant militant rocket fire, including one incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which six Palestinians were killed Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a home in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was struck by an errant rocket.
In the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected of carrying out a deadly attack against Israelis in the city of Elad in May. The soldiers faced a violent protest during the operation, the military said.
The outburst of violence in Gaza was a key test for Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who lacks experience leading military operations. Still, he unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job. (AP)