Fragile Ceasefire in Gaza Holding


The Iron Dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles at rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, as seen from Sderot, on Sunday night. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terrorists took effect late Sunday night in a bid to end nearly three days of violence that killed dozens of Palestinians and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire took effect at 11:30 p.m. Israeli strikes and terrorist rockets continued in the minutes leading up to the beginning of the truce, and Israel said it would “respond strongly” if the ceasefire was violated.

The IDF said Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza fired about 1,100 rockets toward Israel with about 200 of them falling back in Gaza after misfiring.

Several such misfires flattened homes in Gaza, killing civilians. In one case, a PIJ rocket hit a house in Jabaliya, causing the tragic death of seven people, including four children. The Palestinians tried to blame Israel for the incident but the IDF’s footage of the area unequivocally proves that it was a PIJ rocket that hit the building.

“There were more Palestinian casualties from failed rocket launches than IDF attacks,” the army said. “Some 900 rockets crossed into Israeli territory; 830 of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome for a success rate of over 95%.”

The ceasefire agreement does not include any significant concessions from Israel, beyond an amorphous Egyptian promise to work toward the release of two Islamic Jihad prisoners in Israeli custody. One of these prisoners is Bassem Saadi, whose arrest in Jenin last week sparked the recent tensions and eventual hostilities.

“The State of Israel thanks Egypt for its efforts. If the ceasefire is broken, Israel reserves the right to respond strongly. We will not allow anyone to disrupt the lives of the country’s residents,” said a statement from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat.

At a news conference in Tehran, the group’s leader, Ziad Nakhala, said Cairo would “work to secure the release” of Saadi.

Past experience indicates the possibility of sporadic, mainly short-range rocket fire at Israel from Gaza. Indeed, warning sirens blared in southern Israel shortly after the ceasefire went into effect.

Despite the barrage from the Gaza Strip, no Israeli retaliation had been reported into the early hours of Monday.

Sderot and surrounding communities near northern Gaza heard alarms at 11:38 p.m., while other areas near the southern part of Gaza were targeted at 11:50 p.m.

Israeli warplanes conducted a last-minute strike on key targets belonging to the group up to the final minutes of Operation Breaking Dawn. The IDF said safety guidelines from the Home Front Command remain in place.

Officials in Yerushalayim said the military operation was a success for several reasons: It revived and enhanced deterrence against the terrorist organizations in Gaza; it dealt a lethal blow to Islamic Jihad, which lost the majority of its senior command; a minimal number of Israelis were hurt; a relatively low number of Palestinians were killed, especially non-combatants; Hamas was kept on the sidelines, driving a wedge between it and Islamic Jihad; and the international community supported the IDF’s activities in Gaza.

President Joe Biden said he welcomed the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based militants.

“Over these last 72 hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, and others throughout the region to encourage a swift resolution to the conflict,” he said in a statement.

He singled out Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi for playing “a central role in this diplomacy” and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for “helping to bring these hostilities to an end.”

Biden reiterated his “unwavering” support for Israel in the face of the rockets targeting the Jewish state over the weekend, touting the success of the Iron Dome missile defense system that “saved countless lives.”

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday on the violence. China, which holds the council presidency this month, scheduled the session 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.

From the perspective of Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Breaking Dawn was a successful trial by fire that is ending with a sense of accomplishment, contrary to previous operations of a similar nature. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this time, Israel only fought Islamic Jihad – a small organization with far lesser capabilities than Hamas. Another round of fighting that includes Hamas could look much different.

Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas. Both groups call for Israel’s destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing.

Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have reached tacit understandings based on trading calm for work permits and a slight easing 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 laborers, and has held out the prospect of granting another 2,000 permits.

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