In Gaza, a Cease-fire Between Palestinians and Israel Starts to Work!
Late Sunday, Israel and Palestinian militants agreed to stop shooting at each other. This was done to end nearly three days of violence that killed dozens of Palestinians and made it hard for hundreds of thousands of Israelis to go about their daily lives.
The flare-up was the worst fighting between Israel and Gaza militant groups since Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war last year and adds to the destruction and misery that have plagued and blockaded Gaza for years.
The Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took effect at 11:30 p.m. (2030 GMT; 4:30 p.m. EDT). Israeli strikes and militant rockets continued in the minutes leading up to the beginning of the truce, and Israel said it would “respond strongly” if the cease-fire was violated.
Since Friday, Israeli planes have been bombing targets in Gaza. In response, the militant group Palestinian Jihad, which is backed by Iran, has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. As long as no truce was reached, there was still a chance that the fighting across the border would turn into a full-scale war. Israel says that some of the people who died were killed by rockets that went off in the wrong direction.
Hamas, the group that runs Gaza, stayed on the sidelines. This may be because it is afraid of Israeli retaliation and the end of economic agreements with Israel, such as work permits for thousands of Gazans that strengthen its control.
Israel started its operation with a strike on a leader of the Islamic Jihad on Friday. On Saturday, it hit a second important leader with another strike.
Khaled Mansour, the second leader of Islamic Jihad, was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza on Saturday night. Two other militants and five civilians were also killed in the attack, along with two civilians.
Mansour, who is in charge of Islamic Jihad in southern Gaza, was in the apartment of a group member when the missile hit, destroying the three-story building and doing a lot of damage to houses nearby.
“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and everything became black and dusty with smoke in the blink of an eye,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next to the targeted building.
Ahmed al-Qaissi, another neighbor, said his wife and son were among the wounded, suffering shrapnel injuries. To make way for rescue workers, al-Qaissi agreed to have part of his house demolished.
As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Israeli military said it was striking suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch posts.” Smoke could be seen from the strikes as thumps from their explosions rattled Gaza. Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire followed for hours as sirens wailed in central Israel. As the sunset call to prayer sounded in Gaza, sirens wailed as far north as Tel Aviv.
Israel says that some of the deaths in this round were caused by stray rocket fire. Six Palestinians were killed Saturday in the Jebaliya refugee camp in the northern part of Gaza. On Sunday, a projectile hit a house in the same part of Jebaliya, killing two men. Palestinians said Israel was to blame, but Israel said it was looking into whether a stray rocket hit the area.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said mortars fired from Gaza hit the Erez border crossing into Israel, used by thousands of Gazans daily. The mortars damaged the roof and shrapnel hit the hall’s entrance, the ministry said. The crossing has been closed amid the fighting.
The attack on Rafah was the deadliest so far in the current round of fighting, which started when Israel killed Islamic Jihad’s commander for northern Gaza on Friday.
Israel said it took action against the militant group because of concrete threats of an imminent attack but has not provided details. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is an experienced diplomat but untested in overseeing a war, unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.
In a statement Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza “in a pinpoint and responsible way to reduce to a minimum the harm to noncombatants.” Lapid said the strike that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement.”
“The operation will continue as long as necessary,” Lapid said.
The violence has caused the U.N. Security Council to call an emergency meeting for Monday. China, which is in charge of the council this month, set up the meeting after the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab countries on the council along with China, France, Ireland, and Norway, asked for it.
Israel estimates its airstrikes killed about 15 militants.
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.
The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 580 rockets toward Israel. The army said its air defenses had intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down being fired toward Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
Air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area for the first time Sunday since last year’s Israel-Hamas war.
Jerusalem is typically a flashpoint during periods of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including firebrand ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under heavy police protection, ended without incident, police said.
In the past, these kinds of visits by Israeli hardliners who wanted to show that they were in charge of disputed Jerusalem have led to violence. The holy site is right in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Palestinians and Israeli Jews tell very different stories about it.
During overnight raids in Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they arrested 19 people they thought were part of the Islamic Jihad.
By Sunday, it looked like Hamas was still staying out of the fight. The group has a strong reason to try to keep from going to war again. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major wars and many smaller ones in the last 15 years, took a huge toll on the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in the poor territory.
Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have come to an unspoken agreement where they trade peace for work permits and a slight loosening of the border blockade that Israel and Egypt put in place when Hamas took over the area 15 years ago. Israel has given 12,000 work permits to people in Gaza, and it has said that it might give another 2,000.
Saturday at noon, Gaza’s only power plant stopped working because it ran out of fuel. Since Tuesday, Israel has kept its borders with Gaza closed. With the new problem, Gazans can only use electricity for four hours a day. This makes them more dependent on private generators and worsens the territory’s long-term power crisis during the hottest part of the summer.