Middle East

Ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad appears to hold after days of violence

By Ben Wedeman, Ibrahim Dahman, Matthias Somm, Richard Allen Greene and Celine Alkhaldi, CNN

Jerusalem and Gaza CNN  —  Life in Gaza quickly appeared to be returning to normal Sunday, the morning after a ceasefire ended five days of intense rocket fire and airstrikes between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Israel Defense Forces left 35 people dead – all but one of them Palestinians.

Israeli military authorities opened two border crossings into Gaza, allowing much-needed fuel trucks and other supplies to enter the tiny coastal enclave, and Palestinian fishermen were able to resume work.

A CNN team arriving in Gaza on Sunday saw children playing in the streets and fruit and vegetable sellers back at work.

The scenes marked a sharp contrast from the previous five days, which saw a relentless series of strikes and responses between the IDF and militants.

On Sunday the IDF said Islamic Jihad had launched nearly 1,500 rockets towards Israel between Wednesday and Saturday. The IDF itself, meanwhile, said it struck 422 Islamic Jihad targets since Tuesday,when it launched what it called Operation “Shield and Arrow.”

Islamic Jihad named its response “Revenge of the Free.”

An Egypt-brokered ceasefire was supposed to begin at 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) Saturday, but it took more than an hour after that for rockets and airstrikes to stop completely.

Sunday evening sirens sounded in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip and the IDF said that a rocket fired from Gaza Strip toward Israel “fell in an open area.”

Buildings in the Gaza Strip have been reduced to rubble.
The ceasefire follows days of intense rocket fire.

Israel has thanked Egypt for its efforts, with the head of Israel’s National Security Council Tzachi Hanegbi saying as part of the country’s response “quiet will be answered quietly, and if Israel is attacked or threatened, it will continue to do everything it needs to do in order to defend itself.”

Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement that runs the Gaza Strip, issued a statement praising Palestinian resistance factions after the ceasefire began.

Hamas “hails the Joint Operations Room of the Palestinian Resistance Factions for defending the Palestinian people against the most recent Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland welcomed the ceasefire and urged “all sides” to observe it.

“I look forward to the immediate restoration of humanitarian access and all social and economic measures to support Palestinian livelihoods in Gaza,” he said in a statement.

Word of the agreement came near the end of a day of intense fighting. A rocket launched from Gaza killed a Palestinian man working in Israel and seriously wounded another, Israel medical authorities said.

The two brothers were working in the Negev desert in southern Israel and were hit by shrapnel.

The Palestinian man from Gaza who was killed in Israel was one of two fatalities in Israel as a result of rockets from Gaza. The other was an elderly woman killed on Thursday.

In a separate incident, clashes also took place on Saturday morning in the occupied West Bank and at least two Palestinian men were killed, Palestinian officials said.

The latest flare-up began on Tuesday, with the IDF launching strikes on Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group it accuses of planning attacks against Israel.

It is the third conflict in as many years between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas, the largest armed group in the enclave, and Islamic Jihad, the second largest.

Ben Wedeman, Ibrahim Dahman and Matthias Somm reported from Gaza, Richard Allen Greene reported from Jerusalem and Celine Alkhaldi reported from Amman, Jordan

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