Israel-Gaza ceasefire takes hold despite shaky start

A ceasefire agreement has been reached to bring an end to the intense fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants in Gaza that has persisted for five days. However, the truce got off to a shaky start, with both sides continuing to fire at each other for two hours after the ceasefire was supposed to commence on Saturday evening. The death toll in Gaza has risen to at least 33 Palestinians since Tuesday, while Palestinian rocket fire into Israel has claimed the lives of one Israeli and one Palestinian.

Efforts to mediate the conflict were led by Egypt, which urged both sides to adhere to the ceasefire agreement. The United States welcomed the announcement of the ceasefire and revealed that US officials had collaborated with regional partners to facilitate the resolution. However, just before the truce was set to take effect at 10:00 PM local time on Saturday, Palestinian rockets were launched towards Israel, triggering renewed airstrikes. The majority of these rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defenses.

Egypt, a longstanding mediator in Gaza, managed to secure the agreement of both Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad to its latest ceasefire proposal. Israel’s National Security adviser expressed gratitude towards Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for his efforts in bringing about the ceasefire. The Israeli government clarified that their acceptance of the ceasefire signifies that quiet will be met with quiet, but they will continue to defend themselves if attacked or threatened.

Islamic Jihad confirmed their agreement to the ceasefire and expressed gratitude towards Egypt for its mediation efforts. The recent round of violence began after Israeli airstrikes targeted Gaza, resulting in the deaths of three Islamic Jihad leaders and numerous civilians. In retaliation, Islamic Jihad fired barrages of rockets into southern and central Israel. The Israeli military reported that a total of 1,234 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza, with most either intercepted or landing in open areas. However, some rockets have struck homes and other buildings, resulting in casualties on both sides.

Throughout the conflict, there have been mounting calls for a ceasefire, including from the United States. The US Deputy Secretary of State emphasized the urgency of reaching a ceasefire agreement to prevent further loss of civilian life. Egypt continued its mediation efforts despite setbacks, aiming to broker a cessation of hostilities. The recent exchange of fire also followed an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, where two men were killed.

The current escalation in violence has resulted in significant loss of life and destruction in Gaza, as well as casualties in Israel. The ceasefire agreement brings hope for a temporary respite in the ongoing conflict, allowing civilians in the region to recover and rebuild.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Fatima Shbair