Calm returns to Gaza as ceasefire holds

Photo Courtesy Bangkok Post

Calm returned to Gaza on Sunday as a fragile ceasefire held for the most part, with both Palestinians and Israelis counting the cost of five days of cross-border fire that resulted in dozens of casualties. Fishermen took to their boats in the coastal enclave, as Gazans emerged from their homes after sheltering during the intense exchange of fire.

The fighting began with Israeli strikes on the Islamic Jihad militant group and ceased late Saturday after days of truce talks led by Egypt. However, on Sunday evening, the Israeli army reported that one rocket launched from the Gaza Strip landed in an open area in southern Israel, which led to retaliatory artillery fire at two military positions in the northern Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad claimed the rocket fire was due to a “technical error” and emphasized that the group “respects the ceasefire”. As the skies went silent, residents mourned for the 33 people killed in Gaza and the two fatalities in Israel – a Palestinian laborer from the blockaded territory and an elderly Israeli.

The United Nations, citing local officials, said that over 50 homes were destroyed and approximately 950 people displaced in Gaza. “We’re on the street. There’s no home for my children or their children,” said Mohammed al-Louh, whose house was annihilated by Israeli strikes. Medics reported that 190 people were injured in Gaza, while in Israel, seven were injured directly due to Palestinian rocket fire.

Authorities lifted movement restrictions on Israelis living near the Gaza border on Sunday. Israel also reopened its two crossings with Gaza for Palestinians with work permits or permission to access essential medical treatment, thereby allowing supplies of medicine, food, and fuel to reach the territory.

In the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon, resident Michelle Weiss cautioned that the fighting was “not finished”. “Now I’m free, now I can go out… but I know it will begin again,” she remarked to AFP by the beach.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the ceasefire agreement on Sunday and offered his “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims, as stated by his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. Guterres also praised Egypt for its “key role in ending hostilities” and the efforts of Qatar, Lebanon, and the United States.

Gaza, with its 2.3 million Palestinian inhabitants, has suffered from poverty and unemployment since Israel imposed a crippling blockade in 2007 when the Islamist movement Hamas took control. The territory has experienced multiple wars between militant groups and Israel since then, and the recent fighting has been the worst in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since an August flare-up that claimed the lives of nearly 50 Gazans reports Bangkok Post.

While Israel and Islamic Jihad agreed to the ceasefire, they both warned that they would not hesitate to resume fire if the other side breached the agreement. “Quiet will be met with quiet,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office in a statement. Netanyahu stated at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting that the military operation was “perfect” and added, “Today Israel’s enemies in Gaza and far beyond know that even if they try to hide, we can – and will – get to them.”

Islamic Jihad had responded to the Israeli strikes with volleys of rocket fire, leading to sirens sounding. An army official reported on Sunday that militants fired 1,468 projectiles at Israel, of which 1,139 crossed into Israeli airspace, with the army intercepting more than 430 rockets.

There were several unsuccessful rounds of truce talks that stirred concerns the conflict could escalate before a deal was reached, a diplomatic source with knowledge of the negotiations told AFP. Lebanese politician Bassel al-Hassan played a “key facilitator” role in contacting the Islamic Jihad leadership and getting the talks back on course.

As calm in Gaza was largely restored, violence continued in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli forces raided central Nablus early on Sunday, leading to clashes with Palestinian residents, as per an AFP photographer. An army statement mentioned that troops had arrested two people suspected of shooting at soldiers in the occupied territory.

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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