Israel and Hamas agree ceasefire

A ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militant groups appears to be holding after intense fighting during the weekend.

Renewed hostilities began on Friday, when a senior Israeli officer was injured by a grenade next to the Gaza border fence. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) responded by attacking two Hamas tunnels, a Hamas training camp, and sites for building incendiary balloons and firebombs.

Hamas retaliated by firing 170 missiles at Israeli communities. More than 20 missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system. Although 90 per cent of the missiles either landed in open spaces or were intercepted, four Israelis were injured on Saturday in Sderot after a rocket hit their house.

In response, the IAF attacked 40 Hamas military targets including arms depots, tunnels, the headquarters of a Hamas battalion in Beit Lahia – which included 20 office buildings, operation rooms, storage areas and an urban warfare training facility and a training facility in the Shati refugee camp. Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in the air strikes.

On Saturday night, Hamas announced that it had accepted an Egyptian-UN mediated ceasefire. Israel denied the truce had been agreed and air raid sirens warning of incoming missiles were heard on Sunday monring in southern Israel. On Sunday, Israel moved Iron Dome systems to the Tel Aviv area.

A senior Israeli security official said Israel would continue to respond to flying firebombs, which have so far burned about 10,000 acres of farmland, fields, orchards, and nature reserves. Another security official claimed only the facts on the ground would dictate Israel’s response.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet yesterday that the IDF had “dealt Hamas the harshest blow since Operation Protective Edge. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later”.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted Israel has “no intention of tolerating this — not rockets, not kites, not drones — nothing… I hope that Hamas has drawn conclusions, and if they haven’t, they will need to pay a heavy price”.

In an interview with Hahadashot Online, Education Minister Naftali Bennett argued that “a cease-fire that doesn’t include preventing a [military] buildup and stopping the kite terrorism is a mistake that we must not make”.