Islamic Jihad declares truce after violent Gaza weekend

The IDF hit 95 targets after 37 rockets were fired.

Islamic Jihad declared truce with Israel after a violent weekend in which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired 37 rockets at southern Israel and the IDF hit 95 targets in the Hamas-ruled enclave.
The exchange of fire took place from around 10 p.m. Friday night, until about 11 a.m. on Saturday morning and was the heaviest exchange since August. There were no reported Israeli or Gaza fatalities from the rocket fire. Sixteen of the rockets were shot down by Iron Dome, while the rest fell in open areas. Eight of the total 95 targets the IDF hit belonged to Islamic Jihad.
Border clashes between the IDF and 16,000 Gaza rioters on Friday left four Palestinians dead. Palestinian medical officials said that 232 people were wounded in those riots, 180 of them from live fire.
A fifth Palestinian was killed in the West Bank during clashes with the IDF.
Gaza’s Islamic Jihad said it fired rockets at southern Israel in retaliation for the death of the four Palestinians.
Israel issued no statements in response to the violence, but the security cabinet is expected to discuss the ongoing Gaza conflict on Sunday.
After calm had been restored on Saturday, the Islamic Jihad spokesperson said that an Egyptian-mediated truce had been reached.
“After contacts between the Islamic Jihad leadership and the brothers in Egypt, it was agreed that a comprehensive cease-fire will begin immediately,” spokesman Daoud Shehab said. “The Islamic Jihad will abide by the cease-fire if the occupation (Israel) does the same.”
Egyptian security officials have been talking separately to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to restore calm along the border. Israel rarely acknowledges it has reached agreements with terror groups in Gaza.
IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus accused Syria and Iran of involvement in the rocket attack.
“Orders and incentives were given from Damascus with a clear involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Quds force,” Conricus told reporters. “Our response is not limited geographically.”
Shehab dismissed the allegation as “an Israeli attempt to escape its responsibility” for Friday’s protest deaths.
On Saturday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman convened a meeting of high ranking IDF officers and members of the security services, including IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, his office stated.
IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said on Saturday that Israel held Hamas responsible for the violence and that it was expected to have control over events in the Gaza Strip.
“Islamic Jihad did not wait to get a green light from Hamas to fire rockets,” he said. However, he added that “once [Hamas] allow violence near the security fence, they can’t be surprised other factions fire [rockets].”
He, too, said that the rocket fire was directed from Damascus and the Iranian Quds Force. The IDF’s response, he added, is that “no one is immune, not in the Gaza Strip nor outside of it.”
Manelis also warned that the IDF is ready for a “scenario in which we will expand our strikes.”
Israel had hoped that the situation in the Gaza Strip will change following Liberman’s decision to allow Qatar-bought petrol into Gaza.
On Friday morning, the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported that a brokered understanding may have been reached with Egypt’s help that would end the Gaza border riots and the launching of incendiary devices against Israel.
Liberman visited Kibbutz Kerem Shalom by the Gaza border and said, “I hope that at least this weekend it will be calm.”
Liberman has long been of the opinion that only a military operation will stem Hamas violence.
“When Hamas wants to raise the level of violence, it does so, and it lowers it when it wants to,” Liberman said. The weekly riots at the border that began on March 30 are not “popular protests, but were organized by Hamas. They control the flame,” he said.
“We need to wait at least until the end of November to see what will happen and only then it will be possible to draw conclusions of one kind or another,” Liberman continued.
According to Al-Hayat, Israel had agreed to ease some of its border restrictions, particularly those that involved infrastructure projects under the auspices of the UN.
As part of the fragile agreement, Israel would now allow material for those projects to enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing. It would also extended the fishing zone off the Gaza coast.
The report comes after Egypt and the UN exerted pressure on Israel to restore calm between the IDF and Hamas. The UN and Egypt held intense talks on Thursday as part of their efforts to prevent a military confrontation.
Liberman said Thursday he had agreed to requests by Egypt, the UN and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the crossings into Gaza open and to allow Qatari funded fuel to enter, so that he could say he had tried every option possible to prevent violence.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that “Hamas and Islamic Jihad should pay a heavy price for this night.”
Writing on Twitter, Lapid slammed the government of Netanyahu and said that “in four years this government is unable to decide on what it is doing, this is what happens when there is no policy.”
Zionist Union leader Yoel Hasson called the cease-fire, which Islamic Jihad claims had been reached thanks to Egyptian efforts and the IDF has not confirmed or denied yet, “a false cease-fire.”
Stating that residents of the South and “the citizens of this entire country” are “held hostage by a terror organization,” Hasson claimed that Netanyahu “has no policy nor strategy, and he is enabling the continued Hamas rule in Gaza to avoid [having] a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.”
“You [Netanyahu] serve as prime minister for 10 years and you said Hamas is the sole group responsible for what is taking place in the Gaza Strip, so what happened all of a sudden, that a terror organization is such a friend that you defend it so?” asked Haim Jelin, a Yesh Atid MK and Gaza border community resident.
“Once again terrorist groups dictate policy to us and decide when there will be a cease-fire,” Jelin said.
“Another white night ended in the shelter,” said Nahal Oz resident Tom Oren Danenberg. “Now there will be a cease-fire, or an equation that quiet will be met with quiet or some other lie. We all know that those who decide when we start and when we end are Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Speaking with Maariv, The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication, Danenberg said that “the IDF will tell us all that this was the most meaningful strike since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict and by next Friday they will release a PR statement that this is the quietest Friday since the creation of the state of Israel.”
“In reality they won’t do anything,” he said, “and we will meet again in a week, a month or two months... Spend another white night in the shelter and understand... that we don’t really interest them, we bore them.”
Zionist Union MK Salah Saad invited Gaza border communities residents to “leave behind the rockets and the air sirens and reach Beit Jann,” the Druze village Saad hails from and still lives in today.
“The heart and the homes of the people of Beit Jann are open to you,” Saad wrote on Twitter, inviting people to reach out to him via e-mail or Facebook to locate hosts.