Gaza Ceasefire Largely Holding After Day-Long Flareup
A ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s dominant Hamas terror group appeared largely to be holding on Sunday, ending the most intensive flare-up in violence around the Palestinian enclave since a 2014 war.
In a day of fierce fighting on Saturday, Israel carried out dozens of air strikes in Gaza, killing two Palestinians, and terrorists fired more than 100 rockets across the border, wounding three Israelis in a southern town.
The ceasefire, the second between the two sides to be brokered by Egypt this year after a previous day-long flare-up in May, came into force late on Saturday.
“Everyone understands that unless the situation is defused, we will very quickly be back to another confrontation,” UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov told reporters at his office in Gaza.
Israel said that in the initial hours of the ceasefire terrorists fired two rockets across the border, of which one was intercepted by its Iron Dome system. There were no reports of an Israeli counter-attack in Gaza.
Later, two mortar bombs were fired toward Israel, which responded by striking the launch tube, the military said.
Weekly clashes at the Israel-Gaza border have kept tensions at a high for months. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed — most of them members of terror groups — by Israeli forces during riots at the frontier held every week since March, including one on Friday.
Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the demonstrations, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” to provide cover for terrorists’ cross-border attacks. Hamas denies this.
“Our policy is clear: We hit with great might anyone who harms us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday. “I hope that they (Hamas) have gotten the message. If not, they will yet.”
Also on Sunday, Israel’s military said it fired on “a Hamas terrorist squad” that was launching a helium balloon bearing flammable material into Israeli fields from northern Gaza. Palestinian medics said one man was wounded.
Israel says it has lost at least 7,000 acres (2,830 hectares) of farmland and forests to a recent surge in fires started by Gaza terrorists using incendiary balloons and similarly rigged kites.
Hamas said border demonstrations would continue and that the onus of restraint was on Israel.
“Let the enemy end its aggression first and then the resistance will stop,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a eulogy for Amir al-Namara, 15, and Loay Kheil, 16, who were reportedly killed in an Israeli strike on a building they were in.
The Israeli military said the building had been used by Hamas for urban warfare training.