A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants came into effect late Sunday to end nearly three days of violence that killed dozens of Palestinians and shattered the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.
The flare-up was the worst fighting between Israel and militant groups in Gaza since Israel and Hamas waged an 11-day war last year, and adds to the destruction and misery that has plagued the blockaded Gaza Strip for years.
Israel-Gaza conflict: militants exchange fire after deadly attacks
The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire went into effect at 11:30 p.m. (2030 GMT; 4:30 p.m. EDT). Israeli attacks and militant rockets continued in the minutes before the ceasefire began, and Israel said it would “react decisively” if the ceasefire was violated.
Israeli planes have been hitting targets in Gaza since Friday, while the Iran-backed Palestinian Jihadist militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response. Until a ceasefire was reached, cross-border fighting risked escalating into full-blown war. Israel says some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.
The Gaza Strip’s ruling Hamas group has remained on the sidelines, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and the collapse of economic deals with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents, strengthening its control.
Israel launched its operation on Friday with a strike against an Islamic Jihad leader, followed by another targeted strike on a second prominent leader on Saturday.
Islamic Jihad’s second commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an airstrike on a home in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip late Saturday, which also killed two other militants and five civilians.
Mansour, the commander of Islamic Jihad for the southern Gaza Strip, was at the home of a member of the group when the rocket struck, leveling the three-story building and severely damaging nearby houses.
“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and everything turned black and dusty with smoke in an instant,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next door to the building that was attacked.
Ahmed al-Qaissi, another neighbor, said his wife and son were among those injured from shrapnel injuries. To make room for rescue workers, al-Qaissi agreed to demolish part of his house.
As a funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the Israeli military said it had attacked suspected “Islamic Jihad rocket launch sites.” Smoke could be seen from the strikes as the sound of their blasts rattled the Gaza Strip. Hours of Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire ensued while sirens wailed in central Israel. As the sunset call to prayer rang out in Gaza, sirens wailed as far away as Tel Aviv.
Israel says some of the deaths during this round were caused by misguided rocket fire, including an incident at the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza that killed six Palestinians on Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a house in the same area of Jebaliya, killing two men. The Palestinians blamed Israel, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was hit by a misguided missile.
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The Israeli Defense Ministry said mortars fired from Gaza hit the Erez border crossing into Israel, which is used by thousands of Gazans every day. The mortars damaged the roof and shrapnel hit the entrance of the hall, the ministry said. The crossing was closed during the fighting.
The attack on Rafah was the deadliest yet in the latest round of fighting that Israel launched on Friday with the targeted killing of the Islamic Jihad commander in the northern Gaza Strip.
Israel said it took action against the militant group over specific threats of an imminent attack, but gave no details. Interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a seasoned diplomat but inexperienced in overseeing a war, unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is fighting to retain the post.
In a statement Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza “with precision and responsibility to minimize damage to non-combatants.” Lapid said the attack that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement”.
“The operation will continue for as long as necessary,” Lapid said.
The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on the violence for Monday. China, which holds the Council Presidency this month, called the meeting in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the Council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.
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 being constrained by the government’s demands.
The Israeli army said militants in Gaza fired about 580 rockets at Israel. The army said its air defenses intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down being shot at Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
For the first time since last year’s war between Israel and Hamas, air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area on Sunday.
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Jerusalem is typically a focal point during times of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including hotheaded ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a thorny holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under strong police protection, was uneventful, police said.
Such demonstrative visits by Israeli hardliners, aimed at underscoring Israeli claims to sovereignty over embattled Jerusalem, have in the past sparked violence. The holy site lies at the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is central to rival narratives of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
In Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they arrested 19 people suspected of belonging to Islamic Jihad in night raids.
On Sunday, Hamas still appeared to be staying out of the battle. The group has a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s war between Israel and Hamas, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles in the past 15 years, took a staggering toll on the impoverished area’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.
Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have made tacit deals based on trading calm for work permits and a slight relaxation of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas overran the territory 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza workers and has promised to issue another 2,000 permits.
The lone power station in Gaza came to a standstill on Saturday afternoon due to a lack of fuel. Israel has closed its border crossings to Gaza since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gaza residents can only use electricity for four hours a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and compounding the territory’s chronic power crisis amid the summer heat.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/9043343/israel-gaza-palestine-death-toll/ Ceasefire comes into effect between Palestine and Israel in Gaza – National