Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad declared a halt to hostilities across the Gaza Strip border on Thursday, but a lasting ceasefire appeared tenuous as they differed on terms.
Islamic Jihad said an Egyptian-mediated truce went into effect at 0330 GMT, about 48 hours after the flare-up started with Israel’s killing of the Iran-backed faction’s top Gaza commander in an air strike, having deemed him an imminent threat.
A few hours’ calm ensued after the ceasefire began. Then witnesses in Gaza saw five rockets being launched, and sirens sounded in Israeli border towns. There was no word of casualties. Israel‘s military said two rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defense system.
Hundreds of rocket launches by terrorists had paralyzed much of southern Israel and reached as far north as Tel Aviv, sending thousands of people to shelters. Dozens of Israelis were hurt.
Hamas, Gaza’s ruling faction, appeared to have stayed out of this round of fighting. That may have helped stem escalation.
Islamic Jihad claimed Israel had accepted its demand to stop both targeted killings of militants and the use of live fire against Palestinian demonstrators at weekly protests on the Gaza border.
But Israel said it would observe only a limited quid-pro-quo. “Quiet will be answered with quiet,” Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz told Army Radio.
Katz said there would be no change to Israeli military policy in Gaza, contradicting the assertions of Islamic Jihad.
Targeted killings “will not cease,” he stated, and “the open-fire policy for which the Israel Defense Forces is responsible (at the Gaza border) will not change.”