‘Jihad’, Israeli Forces End Two-Day Gaza Flare-up
Egypt has succeeded in meditating between the “Islamic Jihad” movement and Israel, putting an end to a two-day flare-up in the Gaza Strip.
The ceasefire came into effect at dawn on Tuesday and held throughout the day after Jihad announced the end of the latest round of clashes.
Tensions mounted between the two after Israeli forces killed Jihad official Mohammed Ali al-Naim, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Video circulated on social media showed an Israeli bulldozer approaching Palestinians who were trying to retrieve his body.
Jihad’s military wing, al-Quds Brigades, announced that it had ended its military response to the assassination in Khan Younis and Damascus.
In a short statement, the movement said it had completed its “retaliation” for Israel’s killing of three members, but said it would respond to any further aggression.
In two days, Jihad fired about 90 rockets at Israel, and Israel struck Gaza and Damascus, killing three members of the movement, in the worst escalation between the two since November.
Neither Jihad nor Israel are seeking an open war a week before Israeli elections in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vying for a fifth term. Israel confirmed the ceasefire under Egyptian and international auspices. An Israeli official said that Tel Aviv had received messages from the Jihad that it was interested in a ceasefire.
Israel has since reopened a number of highways near Gaza that were closed and resumed train services.
Local Israeli councils lifted restrictions on residents, requiring they remain close to bomb shelters, announcing that they were allowed to fully return to work. Many also lifted restrictions on residents participating in outdoor gatherings.
Despite the easing of restrictions, Israel’s government announced it has closed off all entry points in and out of Gaza, except for humanitarian cases.
Meanwhile, Ynet military analyst, Alex Fishman, said that the defense official who gave the order to go into the Gaza Strip in broad daylight and drag out the body hanging from the prong of a bulldozer “could have blown up the entire Middle East through ignorance and insensitivity.”
Fishman described the death of Naim as a “violation of Palestinian national dignity. Disrespecting a body induces rage in any culture.”
Jihad took it upon itself to exact revenge and Hamas could not stop it because the Palestinian public was not on its side, according to the analyst.
Despite calm conditions, Israeli officials doubted it would last for long.
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said that Israel was prepared to launch a major military campaign against Gaza factions at any time, if the situation developed.
“We can organize our campaign within an hour,” he said. “We aren’t taking the elections into account. If the elections have to be compromised as a result, so be it.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, of the Likud party, told a local radio station that the preparations for a war with Gaza were already completed during the last six months of the last year.
He argued that if Palestinians continue to fire rockets, there won't be an agreement, warning that Israel will have no choice.
“We've prepared a comprehensive plan that's also large, very tough, and very different than everything we've done in Gaza until now. We may also spend several weeks in Gaza and bring down Hamas' government.”