Israeli police clash with Palestinians but ceasefire holds

Violence outside Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque as Hamas holds victory parades in Gaza

US president Biden said he had spoken to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu to commended him "for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close in less than 11 days” and that the US would work with the UN to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. Video: Reuters

 

The ceasefire that went into effect at 2am on Friday morning between Israel and the militant groups in Gaza is holding, although police again clashed with Palestinians outside the Al Aqsa mosque in Jersualem.

Victory parades were held at various locations in the Gaza Strip on Friday, despite the heavy losses sustained during the 11 days of fighting.

“This is the euphoria of victory,” said Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas figure, in front of thousands of Gaza residents who had gathered in the streets to celebrate.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh hailed Hamas’s “victory”, saying it will have a wide impact on Israel’s relationship with the Arab world.

The ceasefire came into force early on May 21, 2021 after 11 days of Fighting. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images
The ceasefire came into force early on May 21, 2021 after 11 days of Fighting. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

“We have destroyed the project of normalisation with Israel,” he said.

At least 243 Palestinians were killed during the campaign, including more than 60 children. In Israel 12 civilians were killed along with one soldier.

Some 20 Palestinians were injured on Friday in renewed clashes with Israeli police outside the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. There were also clashes in the West Bank as Palestinians observed a Day of Rage.

The Israeli army said on Friday it had destroyed more than 100km of tunnels in the Gaza Strip during the fighting and killed 25 senior commanders.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the Israeli attacks had set Hamas back years.

“The rules of the game were changed. We changed the equation not only as regards the operation, but also as regards the future. If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a ‘drizzle’ of rockets, it is mistaken. We will respond with a whole new level of force. What was is not what will be.”

Call for diplomacy

Defence minister Benny Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White, said the military stage is over and it is time for diplomacy.

People take to the streets to celebrate following a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas, Gaza City early on May 21st, 2021. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/ AFP via Getty Images
People take to the streets to celebrate following a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas, Gaza City early on May 21st, 2021. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/ AFP via Getty Images

“If we don’t act diplomatically, quickly and wisely, this operation will go down as simply another round of conflict to be followed by the next one.”

Many residents of Israel’s south, which bore the brunt of the militant rocket fire, expressed frustration that the campaign ended with Hamas still in control of Gaza.

Alon Davidi, the mayor of the border town of Sderot, which was heavily hit, accused Mr Netanyahu of preferring quiet over vanquishing Hamas.

“Netanyahu will be remembered as the prime minister who created two countries over the course of many years: Israel and the state of the Gaza periphery communities, whose residents’ blood is at Hamas’s mercy,” he said.

The latest escalation began last Monday with a massive rocket salvo from Gaza aimed at the Jerusalem area, following days of clashes, including around the Al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinian anger was fuelled by plans to expel residents from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood to make way for Jewish families.

The Israeli leadership throughout the campaign had one eye on the north to Lebanon. Hamas fired more than 4,300 projectiles at Israel, according to the Israeli military, but this pales into insignificance compared to the Hizbullah arsenal, which is estimated at 150,000 rockets – more powerful, more accurate and with a longer range than those used by Hamas.