GAZA CITY: Israel and the Islamic Jihad group agreed to a Cairo-mediated truce on Sunday, raising hopes of an end to the most serious flare-up on the Gaza frontier in more than a year.
The truce came into effect at 20.30 GMT, Islamic Jihad and the Israeli government said in separate statements.
Since Friday, Israeli forces pounded Gaza Strip through the weekend, triggering longer-range rocket attacks against its cities.
The latest clashes have echoed preludes to previous Gaza flare-ups, though they have been relatively contained as Hamas, the governing group in Gaza Strip and a more powerful force than Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, has so far stayed out.
Gaza officials said 43 Palestinians, almost half of them civilians and including children, had so far been killed. The rockets have threatened much of southern Israel and sent residents in cities, including Tel Aviv and Ashkelon, to shelters.
The hostilities leave 41 people dead in the Hamas-ruled territory
Israel launched what it called pre-emptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack meant to avenge the arrest of a leader of the group, Bassam al Saadi, in occupied West Bank.
In response, Islamic Jihad said, it had fired hundreds of rockets at Israel. The group said the truce would involve al Saadi’s release.
On Sunday, Islamic Jihad extended its range to fire toward Jerusalem in retaliation for the overnight killing of its southern Gaza commander by Israel — the second such senior member it has lost in the fighting.
Israel said its Iron Dome interceptor, whose success rate the army claims to be 97 percent, shot down the rockets just west of the city. Palestinians dazed by another surge of bloodshed — after outbreaks in 2008-09, 2012, 2014 and last year — picked through the ruins of houses to salvage furniture or documents.
“Who wants a war? No one. But we also don’t like to keep silent when women, children and leaders are killed,” said a Gaza taxi driver who identified himself only as Abu Mohammad. “An eye for an eye.”
17 Palestinians killed
Nine children were among 17 Palestinians killed on Sunday in Gaza, raising the toll to 41 since fighting began on Friday.
Gaza’s health ministry said more than 300 people were wounded in Gaza since Saturday. Two rockets were intercepted in the centre of Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv on Sunday evening.
“We haven’t slept for days (due to) heat and shelling and rockets, the sound of aircrafts hovering above us... is terrifying,” Nour Abu Sultan, 29, said.
Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza, with the latter firing hundreds of rockets in retaliation.
Buildings have been reduced to rubble in Gaza, while Israelis have been forced to shelter from a barrage of rockets.
Dalia Harel, a resident in the Israeli town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, said she was “disappointed” at news of a truce despite her five children being “traumatised”.
“We’re tired of having a military operation every year,” she said. “We need our military and political leaders to get it over with once and for all...we’re not for war, but we can’t go on like this.”
Islamic Jihad extended its barrage earlier on Sunday to fire two rockets targeting Jerusalem, but they were shot down by the Israeli army.
The military has said the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralised”.
Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director general of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said medics were treating wounded people in a “very bad condition”, warning of dire shortages of drugs and fuel to run power generators. “Every minute we receive injured people,” he said earlier Sunday.
The Gaza health ministry said 15 children were among the 41 dead. Eyewitnesses saw six bodies at the hospital there, including three minors.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2022