A fragile cease-fire agreement to end nearly three days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza lasted overnight and into Monday morning – a sign that the latest round of violence appears to have subsided.
The flare-up was the worst fighting between Israel and Gaza militants since Israel and Gaza’s Hamas leaders fought an 11-day war last year, adding to the destruction and misery that has plagued blockaded Gaza for years.
Since Friday, Israeli warplanes have struck targets in Gaza, while the Iran-backed Palestinian Jihad militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
During three days of fighting, 43 Palestinians were killed, including 15 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. Israel said some of the dead were killed by misfired rockets.
Israel announced on Monday that it is partially reopening the crossings into Gaza for humanitarian needs and will fully reopen them if calm is maintained.
Life for hundreds of thousands of Israelis was disrupted during the violence. Security measures imposed in recent days on residents of southern Israel will be gradually lifted on Monday, the army said.
The violence threatened to escalate into another all-out war, but ended up being contained because Gaza’s ruling group Hamas stayed on the sidelines, possibly fearing Israeli retaliation and the reversal of economic deals with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands residents of Gaza. which strengthen its control over the coastal strip.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group seized the region in 2007.
Israel launched its operation with a strike on Friday against an Islamic Jihad leader, saying there had been “specific threats” to launch an anti-tank missile attack against Israelis in response to the capture of another senior Islamic Jihad figure last week in the West Bank. This arrest came after months of Israeli raids in the West Bank to arrest suspects following a series of Palestinian attacks against Israel.
He killed another Islamic Jihad leader in an attack on Saturday.
Israel said some of the deaths during that round were caused by errant rocket launches, including an incident in 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 held Israel responsible, while Israel said it was investigating whether the area was hit by an errant rocket.
The outbreak of violence has been a key test for Israel’s caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid, who has no experience leading military operations. But he launched the attack less than three months before the general election in which he is campaigning to retain the seat.
President Joe Biden said he welcomes the ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza-based militants.
“Over the past 72 hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and others across the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
The UN Security Council was due to hold an emergency meeting on Monday over the violence. China, which holds the council’s presidency this month, scheduled the meeting in response to a request by the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.
“We underline our commitment to do everything we can to end the ongoing escalation, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population and follow up on the Palestinian prisoner case,” said the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process East, Tor Wennesland. , in a statement.
The Israeli military said militants in Gaza fired about 580 rockets into Israel. The military said its air defenses had intercepted many of them, with two of those shot down flying toward Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.
Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its arsenal. Both groups call for the destruction of Israel, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of the regime.
Hamas had a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major conflicts, and several smaller battles over the past 15 years have taken a toll on the impoverished region’s 2.3 million Palestinians.
Over the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached a tacit understanding based on a lull in trade for work permits and a slight easing of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas seized the region 15 years ago. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gazan workers and held out the prospect of granting another 2,000.
Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.