Israel Stops Bombing Gaza

Israel’s 3-day bombing of the Gaza Strip as a “pre-emptive operation” against a Palestinian militant group has now ended with a truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire.

Israel began its attacks on Friday sending warplanes to hit several sites in the blockaded territory as a part of a surprise operation named “Breaking Dawn”. The Israel Defence Forces said that the operation thwarted alleged planned rocket attacks by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, sometimes aligned with Hamas, the group that rules the strip.

At the time of this writing, Gaza officials have said that 44 Palestinians, the majority of civilians and including 15 children, have been killed. More than 360 Palestinians have been wounded and at least 1,600 Palestinian residential units have been damaged as a result of Israeli shelling.

Casualties on the Israeli side are believed to be non-existent and only three people have been lightly wounded. According to some reports, more than 400 rockets were launched at Israel but mostly intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system. There are no reports of serious casualties, the Israeli ambulance service said.

The Islamic Jihad called the Israeli bombardment a “declaration of war”, firing a barrage of at least 100 rockets into southern Israel on Friday night.

Hamas announced its support for Islamic Jihad and said it would also respond to the strikes. “The resistance, with all its arms and military factions, is united in this campaign and will have the last word,” the group said in a statement.

As The Guardian reports, this weekend’s violence comes after days of tension sparked by the arrest of Bassem al-Saadi, Islamic Jihad’s top commander in the occupied West Bank. The IDF also has conducted near-nightly raids across the West Bank since mid-March, in response to allegedly a wave of Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli citizens.

While Islamic Jihad did not launch rockets after Saadi’s arrest, Israel insisted that the group is seeking revenge, closing the Erez crossing used by Palestinians in Gaza to enter Israel, shutting down roads, and restricting the movement of civilians in Israel’s south as a precaution.

LeMonde also adds that an Israeli military spokesperson said Israel launched the strikes in response to an “imminent threat” from two militant squads armed with anti-tank missiles that were making aggressive movements.

These attacks made the people of Gaza afraid of another war, which would be the 5th since Hamas seized control of the strip in 2007. Israel and Egypt closed the strip’s borders a year later, initiating a 15-year-long blockade that has left 2 million residents with extremely poor living conditions, dependent on humanitarian aid, facing grave unemployment, crumbling medical infrastructure, and little electricity and clean water.

If the attacks would have continued, Gaza would have faced the worst escalation of violence since last year’s 11-day war which killed 256 people in Gaza and 14 people in Israel.

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