Israeli strikes, in response to Palestinian rocket fire, left 44 dead in Gaza, according to Hamas. After mediation by Egypt, the fighting was suspended on Sunday evening.
The tenuous truce that came into effect Sunday evening between the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad and Israel was apparently respected Monday morning, after three days of hostilities which claimed the lives of 44 Palestinians including children in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip. The truce, which officially began at 11:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. GMT) on Sunday, appeared to be holding four hours later, with no party reporting a major breach of the agreement.
Until the last minutes before the start of the truce, obtained thanks to the mediation of Egypt, the Israeli army had said it had carried out strikes on Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza “in response to rockets fired” towards the southern Israeli territory where the warning sirens sounded. The Israeli army said its “last” strike came at 11:25 p.m.
In a statement released on Sunday evening, Joe Biden welcomed the ceasefire and thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi for his country’s role in negotiating it. The US president also called for investigations into the civilian casualties, which he called a “tragedy”. The UN envoy for the Middle East Tor Wennesland welcomed the truce agreement on Twitter but said “that the situation remains very fragile”. “I urge all parties to respect the ceasefire.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office, while announcing the timetable for the truce, said his country “reserves the right to respond firmly to any violation”. He also thanked Egypt, a historical mediator between Israel and the Palestinian armed groups, “for its efforts”. In Gaza, where it is based, the Islamic Jihad confirmed that it would “cease hostilities” from that time, but also warned that it reserved “the right to respond to any (new) Israeli aggression” . The truce agreement provides, among other things, “Egypt’s commitment to work for the release of two prisoners” from Islamic Jihad in the hands of Israel, the Palestinian group said.
“44 Palestinian martyrs”
On Sunday, seventeen Palestinians including nine children were killed in Israeli raids including on Jabaliya, Gaza City and Rafah, said the health ministry of the Palestinian armed movement Hamas, in power in the enclave under Israeli blockade since more than fifteen years. Since the start of the Israeli operation in Gaza on Friday, “44 Palestinians have been martyred, including 15 children” and “360 have been injured”, according to a latest report from the ministry, which also reported on entire buildings destroyed in the strikes.
During the day and evening, Islamic Jihad had launched salvoes of rockets towards cities in Israel and Jerusalem, but the vast majority were intercepted by the Israeli missile defense system, according to the army. Warning sirens sounded in several cities, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon (south), to warn of rocket fire and residents rushed to shelters.
Three people have been injured in Israel by rocket fire since Friday, according to rescuers. According to the army, hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza since Friday, the vast majority having been intercepted.
The Israeli authorities have also claimed that some of the Palestinians killed would have perished because of failed rocket fire from Islamic Jihad towards Israel, which fell in the Palestinian enclave.
In Gaza, the director of al-Shifa hospital said his facility urgently needed medicine and electricity. Gaza’s only power plant was closed on Saturday due to a lack of fuel, four days after Israel closed crossings with the enclave citing security concerns.
The Israeli army presented its operation launched Friday as a “preemptive attack” against Islamic Jihad, during which its main military leaders in Gaza, Tayssir Al-Jabari and Khaled Mansour, were killed along with several fighters of the group . The death of the military leaders was confirmed by the Islamic Jihad, considered “terrorist” by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Yair Lapid called the strike that killed Khaled Mansour on Saturday an “extraordinary result”. The Israeli authorities justified their operation by their fears of reprisals from the Islamic Jihad after the arrest of Bassem al-Saadi on August 1 in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.
Egypt must work to secure the release of Mr. Saadi and another Islamic Jihad official, Khalil Awawdeh, who has been held in an Israeli prison since December 2021 as part of the truce agreement, according to the Islamic Jihad. In the past two days, some 40 Islamic Jihad operatives have been arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank.
The confrontation between Israel and Islamic Jihad is the worst since that between Israel and Hamas in May 2021. The latter had killed 260 Palestinians in eleven days, including fighters and 14 dead in Israel, including a soldier, according to the local authorities.