Israel, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Reach Ceasefire
An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) went into effect at 11:30 pm Sunday after further rounds of rocket fire were launched from the Gaza Strip, ending three days of fighting in the coastal enclave.
In a statement late Sunday, Israel’s Public Diplomacy Directorate thanked Egypt for its diplomatic efforts, and pledged to “respond strongly” if the ceasefire was violated by the Islamic Jihad.
The ceasefire included several demands by the Palestinian militant group, Lebanese TV channel al-Mayadeen reported earlier, citing a statement by the Islamic Jihad movement.
PIJ political head Muhammad al-Hindi said that the “wording for the Egyptian declaration of the truce agreement was reached, including Egypt’s commitment to work for the release of the two prisoners,” referring to the terror group’s Bassam al-Saadi and Khalil Awawdeh.
Al-Saadi, a long-sought West Bank PIJ leader, was targeted and arrested on Monday night by the IDF. The arrest set off threats of a retaliatory attack by the PIJ, prompting Israel to close roads and crossings around the Gaza Strip for several days.
Al-Saadi, 61, has been arrested several times in the past, serving a total of fifteen years in Israeli prison. He is thought to have played a central role in the buildup of the PIJ’s West Bank activities, in particular in Jenin, according to Israel’s security service.
Sirens warning of incoming Gaza rockets continued to sound in most cities in southern Israel, including Sderot, Ashkelon and Beersheva throughout Sunday, sending Israeli civilians running into shelters.
In Jerusalem, Israelis headed to the Temple Mount on the fast day of Tisha B’Av. Events there passed without any major security incidents.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said three mortar bombs fired from the Gaza Strip struck the Erez Crossing, between Israel and the coastal enclave and damaged the terminal roof. The crossing has been closed since the fighting began on Friday.
“As a result of the fire, shrapnel fell into the entrance hall, an area that is used to facilitate the daily passage of thousands of Gazans that work in Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.
Overnight Saturday, the IDF continued to target high ranking PIJ commanders, killing senior PIJ terrorist and Gaza Strip southern division commander Khaled Mansour. IDF strikes also killed Khatab ‘Amasi, Mansour’s deputy and commanding officer of the Rafah Brigade in the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, and Ziad Madalal, a member of the Islamic Jihad leadership.
Mansour was responsible for dozens of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, the IDF said.
In the West Bank, the IDF arrested 20 PIJ terror operatives around Jenin and other surrounding towns.
“We are acting in a precise and responsible way to minimize harm to civilians,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid emphasized.
According to the IDF, Mansour had planned to carry out an anti-tank missile and rocket attack at Israel and was behind the orchestration of a thwarted terror attack along the Gaza border with Israel in recent days.
Since the start of operation Breaking Dawn on Friday, more than 585 rockets have been launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip, out of which 470 crossed into Israel and 115 were misfired and landed in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
The rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome antimissile defense system with a 97 percent interception success rate saving lives on the Israeli side, the IDF said.
Taking account of the military achievements, the IDF said that 139 PIJ sites have been struck, including a terrorist attack tunnel, rocket launch posts, military positions and weapons storage facilities, as well as PIJ Southern and Northern Brigade Commanders and anti-tank launch teams in the Gaza Strip. One of the tunnels was used for Islamic Jihad infiltration attacks into Israel but did not cross into Israeli territory, the IDF said.
No casualties have been reported on the Israeli side, while about 41 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health.
This article has been updated