Ceasefire comes into effect in Gaza following three days of fighting

Fighting between Islamic Jihad and Israel continued up until minutes before deadline of truce brokered by Egypt

A tense ceasefire went into effect on Sunday night after Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza agreed to an Egyptian ceasefire proposal after three days of fighting.

Militants fired a barrage of rockets towards central Israel on Sunday night just minutes before the truce deadline, targeting Tel Aviv and surrounding towns. And Israel also hit militant targets across Gaza just ahead of the ceasefire.

Israel accepted the Egyptian plan, drawn up with the help of Qatari and the United Nations envoys, for a truce from eight o’clock Sunday evening local time after saying it had achieved most of its military objectives during the three-day campaign that began on Friday afternoon with the targeted killing of the Islamic Jihad’s commander in the northern Gaza Strip, Tayseer Jaabari.

Prime minister Yair Lapid told southern municipal leaders that Israel has achieved its goals in the three days of fighting in Gaza against the Islamic Jihad, and that there was no benefit to continuing Operation Breaking Dawn.


Israeli intelligence officials reportedly urged the political echelon to accept the Egyptian mediation before any mishaps or mistakes ruined the outcome and got Israel bogged down in a larger-scale operation that it did not want.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 31 Palestinians have been killed during the current round of fighting, including six children and two women. More than 260 people have been injured.

Palestinian media on Saturday blamed Israel for the death of four children in Jabalya close to Gaza city, but an Israeli army inquiry concluded that the children had been killed by a Palestinian rocket that misfired.

More than 800 rockets have been fired at Israel, including at Tel Aviv where a couple of projectiles fell into the Mediterranean Sea, sending people on the beach fleeing in panic.

On Sunday rockets were fired towards Jerusalem and at Beersheba, the biggest city in southern Israel.

However, Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defence system has been remarkably effective, intercepting more than 95 per cent of incoming projectiles heading towards population centres.

Israel said it launched the operation to thwart an imminent threat from militants to fire anti-tank missiles across the border. The spark for the latest round of violence was the arrest last Monday by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin of Bassem Saadi, the head of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.

Israel claims to have killed up to 15 militants who were on the border planning to fire anti-tank missiles into Israel. On Saturday night an Israeli strike killed another high-ranking Islamic Jihad official, Khaled Mansour, the commander of the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli army’s operations director, Major General Oded Basiuk, told journalists: “We’ve taken out Islamic Jihad’s entire top security cadre.”

The decisive factor behind moves to bring a quick end to the current round of fighting was the decision by Hamas not to enter the fray, despite messages of solidarity with the smaller Islamic militant group. Israel largely succeeded in preventing harming innocent civilians, thus averting pressure on Hamas to get involved.

The two Islamic organisations are bitter rivals and Hamas, which rules the impoverished coastal enclave and has responsibility for its almost two million residents, had a lot to lose by another war.

Following a period of relative quiet, by Gazan standards, and with the help of monthly financial assistance from Qatar, there have been signs of a steady improvement in recent months. Nearly 20,000 Gaza labourers enter Israel daily bringing in much needed income; the Kerem Shalom crossing is open to allow the passage of basic food staples; and the Gaza fishing zone has been extended.

All this would be lost with another protracted conflict, just more than a year after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas left more than 200 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis dead.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem