Tense Egyptian-brokered truce goes into effect

Palestinians claim victory while IDF officers say Islamic Jihad was significantly weakened.

By
March 14, 2012 03:19
2 minute read.
SOLDIERS REST near Kibbutz Kissufim

IDF soldiers resting 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Sporadic Gazan rocket fire violated the shaky Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that Israel and Islamic Jihad established on Tuesday in an effort to end four days of violence that saw over 300 rockets launched toward Israel.

In total, 167 of the projectiles hit Israel, some 45 fell inside the Gaza Strip and 56 were intercepted by the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed during the fighting, including three civilians, and eight Israelis were wounded.

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Palestinians fired a rocket into southern Israel on Tuesday night that struck in the heart of Netivot, in violation of the cease-fire.

The rocket hit a parking lot, police said. There were no immediate reports of injuries. A bomb squad was dealing with the attack and emergency services were on site to help people suffering from shock.

Earlier on Tuesday evening, two rockets landed in the Ashkelon Coast region, marking the first such attacks since midday. Previously, terrorists fired five mortar shells and two rockets at southern Israel just before noon. No injuries or damages were reported.

“Quiet will be met with quiet and fire will be met with fire,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told new recruits on Tuesday.

While Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza City to celebrate “victory” over Israel, IDF sources said that Islamic Jihad had been severely beaten during the recent violence.

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“They lost a significant number of the mid-level commanders and a lot of infrastructure,” a senior officer said. “This will hopefully teach them a lesson.”

Nevertheless, IDF officers acknowledged that a new round of violence was likely just a “matter of time” and that Islamic Jihad would use the coming weeks to regroup, rearm and then renew its rocket attacks. According to reports denied by Israel, Islamic Jihad agreed to the cease-fire after Israel agreed not to target terrorist leaders.

Despite the cease-fire, the IDF said it would keep the three Iron Dome batteries in service deployed in the South in case Gazans fired more rockets in the coming days. On Tuesday, the Home Front Command lifted its restrictions and schools are expected to open as usual on Wednesday.

Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ramadan Shallah addressed demonstrators in Gaza City by phone from Syria and said his group had sent an important message to Israel – “that despite the siege, the Palestinians are able to defend themselves, instill fear among millions of Israelis, disrupt their lives and send them hiding in shelters.”

Israel was mistaken in assuming that the Gaza Strip was “easy prey,” he said. He boasted that his group, which fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel since Friday, had “created a balance of terror with the enemy.”

“One round has ended, but the war has not ended and won’t end until the liberation of Palestine and the dismantlement of the Zionist project,” Shallah declared. “Our men have turned the Gaza Strip from a jungle for rifles into a jungle for rockets.”

Muhammad al-Hindi, another Islamic Jihad leader, told the crowd that his group has succeeded in forcing Israel “to take one step backward.” He claimed that Israel was eventually forced to “succumb to the demands of Islamic Jihad and pledge to stop assassinations.”

Despite the truce, his group would continue to prepare for the next confrontation with Israel, he said.

“This is the first time that the resistance succeeds in imposing its conditions on the enemy,” Hindi said.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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