Jerusalem24 – A ceasefire between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel entered into force shortly after 11:30pm on Sunday night, despite a flurry of Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rockets being fired up until the last minute.
On Sunday afternoon, Egypt announced it had brokered a truce with the help of the United Nations and Qatar.
While both sides agreed to halt the fighting, each warned the other it would respond with force to any violence.
The secretary general of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad Al-Nakhala, told reporters in Tehran, “The Islamic Jihad lays down its conditions. First, to unite all the Palestinians. Second, we demand that the enemy release our brother who has been on hunger strike, Khalil Awawdeh. And third, to release Sheikh Bassem Al-Saadi.”
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid thanked Egypt for its role in facilitating the truce deal, adding that “if the ceasefire is violated, the State of Israel maintains the right to respond strongly”.
The caretaker Prime Minister, who is set to run for general elections in November, had told southern municipal leaders earlier that Israel had “achieved its goals” in the three-day “operation.”
In a separate press statement, Al-Nakhala said, “Hamas is the backbone of the incubator of the resistance, we and Hamas are in a continuous alliance to confront the enemy, we will remain united in fighting the occupation with all the forces of resistance.”
Egypt issued a statement saying it is “exerting efforts to release” administrative detainee Khalil Awawdeh and “transfer him for [medical] treatment.” Awawdeh has been on hunger strike for five months to protest his being held without charge or trial.
Egypt further said it is working for the release of Al-Saadi “as soon as possible.”
Al-Saadi was arrested last week in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Israel put Israeli towns close to Gaza on lockdown in an anticipation of retaliatory rocket strikes from the Islamic Jihad, but no rockets were actually fired by the time Israel started its campaign of airstrikes against Gaza on Friday afternoon.
On Friday, Israel assassinated Islamic Jihad’s chief of operations in the northern Gaza Strip Tayseer Al-Jabari, carrying out a heavy bombardment across the Gaza Strip which also killed a 5-year-old girl.
Over the course of the next 56 hours, the Israeli army said it was targeting members of the Islamic Jihad group, but according to Palestinian officials, almost half of the 45 people killed were civilians, including 15 children.
The Islamic Jihad responded on Friday to the assassination and announced that it had fired more than 100 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. A majority were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.
“In response to the crime of assassinating Al-Jabari and his comrades, Saraya al-Quds bombed Tel Aviv and other cities with more than 100 missiles,” said the group’s armed wing.
On Saturday, Israel killed Khaled Mansour, the head of the Islamic Jihad’s operations in southern Gaza, in an airstrike that demolished a house in Rafah near the border with Egypt. Islamic Jihad once again responded with hundreds of rockets fired toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The Israeli army said that over the weekend it had struck more than 140 Islamic Jihad targets and “neutralized” the group’s top brass and assets, including tunnels used by militants to carry out attacks, weapons storage facilities, and rocket-launch sites.
There have been no reported deaths in Israel, where the Iron Dome missile-defense system has intercepted about 97 percent of the approximately 470 rockets fired from Gaza since Friday, according to the Israeli military.
The Israeli operation, code-named Breaking Dawn comes just over a year after Israel’s May 2021 war in Gaza with Hamas which killed 232 Palestinians including 54 children.