Cease-fire between Israel and Gaza militants holds overnight
Gaza City- A fragile cease-fire deal to end nearly three days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza held throughout the night and 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 Jihad militant group fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Over three days of fighting, 43 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. 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.
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.
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. He said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the operation with the media.
The violence had threatened to spiral into another all-out war. Still, it 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 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 deaths during this round were caused by errant rocket fire, including one incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, where 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 investigated 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 critical test for Israel’s caretaker, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who lacks experience in 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 Gaza-based militants.
“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 statement Sunday.
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 Norway.