Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip exchanged fire on Saturday in the worst episode of cross-border violence since the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas last year.
Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 11 people, including a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group, who was killed in a targeted strike.
Militants have fired dozens of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
Israel launched what it called preemptive strikes on Friday against what it anticipated would be an Islamic Jihad attack aimed at avenging the arrest of a group leader, Bassam al-Saadi, Reuters reported. In response, Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
the two main Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip, and is vastly outnumbered by the ruling Hamas group. But it enjoys direct financial and military support from Iran, and has become the driving force for engaging in rocket attacks and other confrontations with Israel.
Hamas, which took control of Gaza in 2007 from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, is often limited in its ability to act because it is responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the impoverished territory. Islamic Jihad has no such duties and has become the most militant faction, at times even undermining the authority of Hamas.
The group was founded in 1981 with the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and all of what is now Israel. It is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State, the European Union and other governments. Like Hamas, Islamic Jihad has vowed to destroy Israel.
Since taking power in 2007, Hamas has fought four wars with Israel, often with the support of Islamic Jihad fighters. Aside from a flare-up earlier this year, the border has been mostly quiet since last year’s 11-day war and Hamas appears to be staying out of this current conflagration, which could prevent it from escalating into all-out war.
Islamic Jihad militants have defied Hamas by firing rockets, often without claiming responsibility, to raise their profile among Palestinians as Hamas maintains the ceasefire. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza.
Hamas must walk a tightrope between restraining Islamic Jihad’s fire against Israel and avoiding the wrath of the Palestinians if it cracks down on the group. As in previous outbreaks, Hamas will have the final say on how long, and how violent, this round of fighting will last.
Israel reopened border crossings into the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to Reuters, after the country signed a truce with Palestinian militants following three days of violence that left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded, marking the potential end of the worst clashes since the war broke out. between Israel and Hamas in 2021.
A senior Israeli diplomatic official said the offensive was successful and had set Islamic Jihad’s capabilities “decades” back, citing the loss of the two leaders and impacts on the group’s rocket production and launch capabilities, among others. hits. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation with the media.
US President Joe Biden welcomed the ceasefire.
“During these last 72 hours, the United States has worked with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and others throughout the region to encourage a speedy resolution of the conflict,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
On Monday, in the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected of carrying out a deadly attack on Israelis in the town of Elad in May. The soldiers faced a violent protest during the operation, the army said.
The UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Monday on the violence. China, which holds the council’s presidency this month, scheduled the session in response to a request from the United Arab Emirates, which represents Arab nations on the council, as well as China, France, Ireland and Norway.
“We underscore our commitment to do everything possible to end the ongoing escalation, ensure the safety of the civilian population and follow up on the file on Palestinian prisoners,” said Tor Wennesland, UN special coordinator for the peace process in the Middle East.
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