Despite a somewhat uncertain beginning, it seemed that the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant organization Islamic Jihad was held on Sunday. Reports from Israeli and Egyptian media on Saturday indicated that an agreement for a cease-fire had been reached, with the truce scheduled to commence at 10 p.m. local time.
After a period of intense conflict and violence that resulted in the deaths of 33 Palestinians in Gaza and two individuals in Israel, a cessation of hostilities has begun in and around the Gaza Strip. The ceasefire, scheduled to commence at 10 pm local time (1900 GST) on Saturday, was confirmed by Egyptian and Palestinian sources. However, in the last half-hour leading up to the agreed time, numerous rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israel, prompting a fresh wave of airstrikes, as reported by AFP correspondents present in the region. Israeli air defences successfully intercepted the majority of the incoming rockets.
Reason for the recent clash between Israel & Gaza militants
The recent clash between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza is part of an ongoing history of confrontations that began when Hamas, an Islamic militant group, took over control of the coastal territory in 2007. Over the years, Israel and Hamas have engaged in four major wars, alongside several smaller instances of violence. In the current round of fighting, Hamas, being the more powerful force, has expressed support for the strikes carried out by Islamic Jihad but has chosen to remain relatively inactive, thus limiting the scale of the conflict. As the de facto governing body responsible for the dire conditions in the blockaded Gaza Strip, Hamas has recently been attempting to minimize its conflicts with Israel.
In contrast, Islamic Jihad, a militant group characterized by strong ideological beliefs and a penchant for disorder, has emerged as the dominant force in recent confrontations with Israel.
Egypt’s active efforts in achieving a ceasefire
According to an Egyptian security official, Egypt, a long-standing mediator in Gaza, successfully obtained the agreement of both Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad for its latest ceasefire proposal.
The Israeli prime minister’s office issued a statement expressing gratitude to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and acknowledging Israel’s appreciation for Egypt’s active efforts in achieving a ceasefire. The statement also emphasized that Israel’s response to the Egyptian initiative would be to reciprocate quiet with quiet. However, it made it clear that if Israel were to be attacked or threatened, it would take all necessary measures to defend itself.
A Palestinian official from Islamic Jihad affirmed that they have reached an agreement, as confirmed by a reliable source. Mohammad al-Hindi, an official from the political department of Islamic Jihad, expressed gratitude to Egypt for their efforts. Al-Hindi has been in Cairo since the conflict started on Tuesday.
The repetitive cycle of airstrikes
Following a fresh wave of rocket attacks into Israel, marking the funeral of their military commander Iyad al-Hassani who was killed on Friday, Israel once again carried out airstrikes targeting the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in Gaza on Saturday. The situation in Gaza and Israeli communities near the border has been characterized by a repetitive cycle of airstrikes and sirens warning of incoming rocket attacks.
People residing in the densely populated Gaza Strip sought shelter inside their homes while intense conflict raged, resulting in deserted streets and only a handful of operational shops and pharmacies. In Deir al-Balah, located in the central part of the Gaza Strip, the wreckage of a series of buildings demolished in an Israeli attack harboured the lifeless body. Imad Rayan, aged 64, voiced the unsettling reality that no one could consider their homes a place of safety. According to a representative from the Gaza interior ministry, during the last day of its operation, the Israeli military specifically focused on attacking innocent civilians and residential buildings.
Increasing Demand for Cease-Fire
Various voices, including the United States, had been increasingly demanding a ceasefire. The US deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, emphasized the need to swiftly reach an agreement on a ceasefire during her conversation with Israel’s strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer. The objective was to prevent any additional harm to civilian lives, as reported by the state department.
The recent agreement reached on Saturday failed to address several underlying causes of the recurring conflicts. These include the continuous blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza, the significant weapons stockpiles held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel gained control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza during the 1967 Mideast War. The Palestinians assert their claim to all three areas as part of their future state. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, but subsequent to that, Hamas took control and expelled forces loyal to the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.
Israel, along with Egypt, has implemented a blockade on Gaza, citing its objective as preventing Hamas from acquiring arms. However, the Palestinians and international human rights organizations argue that this policy, which limits the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, amounts to collective punishment.