Egypt said to have brokered truce following Gaza escalation


Yesterday saw the most intense day of violence on the Gaza border between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters since Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014.

Mortars were fired on Israeli troops at the border on six occasions yesterday. Five of the incidents reportedly targeted Israeli soldiers working to locate and uncover underground tunnels, with Hamas openly rebuilding the subterranean tunnel network designed to launch attacks on Israeli targets. Earlier this week, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Gaza border region and inspected a large tunnel which was uncovered last month, which burrowed underneath the border.

Israeli troops responded to the mortars with tank fire, while Israel’s Air Force struck five Hamas targets near Rafah. IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said that Israel “will continue to operate in order to protect the civilians of Israel from all Hamas terrorist threats above and beneath ground,” adding that “our efforts to destroy the Hamas terror tunnel network, a grave violation of Israel’s sovereignty, will not cease or be deterred”.

Overnight, Israel’s Air Force targeted a further four Hamas infrastructure sites in the northern Gaza Strip. There are no reports of casualties or injuries during the violence of the past 24 hours. Although Hamas claimed that Israel is responsible for the escalation, the Walla news site says that Israel warned Hamas to end the mortar fire through intermediaries, while YNet quotes a senior defence official, who said: “We responded firmly, and we also conveyed stern messages to them.”

This morning, Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk claimed that Egypt had brokered a truce between the two sides. He said that Egypt’s “response was quick, serious, which helped restore things to where they were before”. Egypt was instrumental in negotiating the ceasefire which brought Operation Protective Edge to an end. Since then, there has been relative quiet in the Gaza region, which has been punctuated by periodic incidents of rocket fire into southern Israel.