A lasting cease-fire appeared tenuous between Israel and Gaza-based group Islamic Jihad as the death toll from Israeli strikes reaches 32, almost half of them civilians and including eight children and three women since Tuesday.
The Islamic Jihad militant group Thursday morning announced a cease-fire with Israel. Spokesman Musab al-Berim said the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group's leaders and an easing of Israel's 12-year blockade of Gaza. Hamas, Gaza's dominant faction, appeared to have stayed out of this round of fighting. The group said an Egyptian-mediated truce went into effect at 5:30 a.m., about 48 hours after Israel triggered the exchange of fire by killing the Iranian-backed faction's top Gaza commander in an airstrike, deeming him an imminent threat. A few hours' calm ensued. Then witnesses in Gaza saw five rockets being launched, and sirens sounded in Israeli border towns. There was no word of casualties. Israel's military said two rockets were shot down by its Iron Dome air defense system.
Islamic Jihad said Israel had accepted its demand to stop the targeted killing of Palestinians and sometimes lethal army gunfire at weekly Palestinian protests on the Gaza border. "The cease-fire began under Egyptian sponsorship after the occupation of [Israel] submitted to the conditions set by Islamic Jihad on behalf of Palestinian resistance factions," al-Braim said. But Israel said it would observe only a limited quid-pro-quo. Israel will follow suit if Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip stop cross-border attacks, an Israeli official said Thursday, denying that Israel had changed open-fire policy as demanded by the Islamic Jihad for a truce. "Quiet will be answered with quiet," Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Army Radio. "The State of Israel will not hesitate to strike at those who try to harm it, from the Gaza Strip or from anywhere else."
One of the worst rounds of Israeli-Gaza violence in five years began in response to news that Israel had targeted two senior Islamic Jihad leaders. Earlier Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike killed Bahaa Abu al-Atta, the commander of Islamic Jihad, as well as his wife Asmaa Abu al-Atta, 39. This is considered the possible beginning of a renewed conflict, leaving residents in fear for their lives. Israeli warplanes also launched an airstrike targeting Islamic Jihad member Akram al-Ajouri in Syria's capital Damascus.