UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) – The Gaza-Israel border was quiet on Wednesday under an effective cease-fire agreement after the fiercest rounds of fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel since the 2014 war.
Militants from the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which controls the Gaza Strip and Islamic Jihad, fired dozens of rockets and mortars into southern Israel on Tuesday and after midnight. Israel responded with artillery shelling and air strikes on more than 50 targets in the territory.
There were no further reports of attacks after Hamas announced in the early hours of Wednesday that it would stop firing if Israel did. Israel has also indicated that it will stop its strikes if rocket fire stops.
But even during the fighting, both sides seemed reluctant to slide into a wider conflict after weeks of violence on the border.
Hamas has not fired any long-range rockets into Israeli territory, although short-range rockets from Gaza disrupt daily life in small Israeli communities on the border. Israel has targeted areas that appear to have been evacuated in advance in anticipation of the attacks.
No militants or Israel have been killed, but Israel said three of its soldiers were wounded by shrapnel from projectiles.
A Palestinian official said Egyptian mediation had led to a ceasefire, but the terms of the “understanding” did not go beyond a return to calm on both sides.
Hamas has largely abided by a truce brokered by Egypt and ended nearly four years ago with a seven-week war with Israel.
Schools, as usual, opened in Israeli towns near the border, where sirens sounded frequently on Tuesday. The streets of Gaza were rife with shoppers as the children went to school.
Israel has not formally confirmed a truce with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which both and Western countries regard as terrorist organizations, but said any resumption of Palestinian attacks would be followed by a stronger military response.
“When they test our resolve, they pay the price immediately, and if they continue to test our resolve, they will pay a much larger price,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a memorial service in Tel Aviv.
“I think there is indirect agreement with Hamas to end the current round of fighting,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of the security cabinet, told Israel Radio.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab acknowledged the cease-fire and said the success of the truce depended on whether Israel would refrain from any military escalation against Gaza.
– Protests on the border –
Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they fired rockets in retaliation for Israel’s killing of at least 116 Palestinians since March 30 during protests on the Gaza border.
Islamic Jihad vowed to retaliate in retaliation for Israeli artillery shelling that killed three of its men on Sunday after planting explosives along the border with Gaza.
Violence has raged along the border with Gaza in recent weeks. Israel has faced international condemnation of its use of lethal force in the face of demonstrations in Gaza.
The Israeli army said that by late Tuesday its aircraft had bombed 55 installations belonging to armed groups in Gaza, including a tunnel under the border under construction, in response to Palestinian attacks.
Israel said about 70 rockets and mortars had been fired from Gaza into southern Israel. Israel’s anti-missile system has intercepted a number of ballistic missiles and some landed in empty areas and agricultural land. One of them exploded in a kindergarten yard before opening.