Fragile Israel, Gaza Cease-Fire Holding08/08 06:03
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.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- 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 pummeled targets in Gaza while the
Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets
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 is maintained. Gaza's lone
power plant came back online Monday after fuel trucks entered a cargo crossing
for the first time since the crossings with the strip were closed last week.
The closure prompted a fuel shortage that ground the plant to a halt on
Saturday. 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
Israel launched its operation with a strike 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.
President Joe Biden said he welcomed the cease-fire between Israel and
"Over these last 72-hours, the United States has worked with officials from
Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others throughout
the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict," he said in a
The U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Monday on the
violence. China, which holds the council presidency this month, scheduled the
session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which
represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and
"We underscore our commitment to do all we can towards ending the ongoing
escalation, ensuring the safety and security of the civilian population, and
following-up on the Palestinian prisoners file," said U.N. Special Coordinator
for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, in a statement.
The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 1,100 rockets toward
Israel, with about 200 of them landing inside the Palestinian enclave. The army
said its air defenses had intercepted 380 of them, including two fired toward
Jerusalem. The military did not specify what happened to the remainder, but
they likely fell in open areas or broke up in the air.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is
known about its arsenal. Both groups call for Israel's destruction, but have
different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.
Hamas had a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year's Israel-Hamas
war, one of four major conflicts, and several smaller battles over the last 15
years, have exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory's 2.3
million Palestinian residents.
Over the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based
on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade,
imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago.
Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza laborers, and has held out the
prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.